ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy men's basketball team enters the 2012-13 season as one of the nation's youngest teams as the Midshipmen look to rebuild from a tough 2011-12 campaign. With no seniors and just four juniors on the roster, the Midshipmen will rely on their youth and talent to make a move upward in the competitive Patriot League race.
Navy head coach Ed DeChellis has a slew of guards in his program with a trio of juniors giving the program its most experience at the position.
Juniors Isaiah Roberts, Thurgood Wynn and Brennan Wyatt return for their junior seasons, looking to lead the backcourt into the upcoming campaign. Isaiah Roberts (6-1, 176) is the most accomplished of the three, having played in every game during his career, 60 of them with 32 starts, and averaging 6.4 ppg and 1.8 rpg in those contests. Last year, the slashing junior was named the team MVP after averaging 7.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg and 1.9 apg, but was honored more for what he did in the second half of league play. Over the last four games, Roberts averaged 16.0 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game and 2.8 steals per game while shooting 24-of-44 (.545) from the field and 12-of-17 (.706) from the free throw line. Three times in the last four games, he surpassed his career high in points, including an outstanding all-around game in a 20-point, five-assist, four-steal, three-rebound effort against Bucknell in the Patriot League Quarterfinals.
Wynn (6-3, 184) missed three games with a shoulder injury at the start of Patriot League play, but he still was the only Navy player to shoot over 50 percent for the season, averaging 4.2 ppg while shooting 50.7 percent from the field. Wynn gives DeChellis another player that can take the ball to the hole at the shooting guard position.
Wyatt (5-8, 168) appeared in 23 games with seven starts and averaged 2.0 ppg and recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.29 (27-to-21) as a junior. He is Navy's most-experienced point guard, playing 54 games over the last two seasons for a total of 741 minutes at the position.
Four sophomores will all compete for playing time at the guard position, led by Brandon Venturini (6-0, 180). Venturini played in 26 games a year ago, earning three starts during Patriot League play. A strong shooter, he averaged 2.8 ppg with a team-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.33 (20-to-15). He made 17-of-58 (.293) three-pointers a year ago, but has worked hard during the offseason and will be counted on significantly for his outside shooting during the upcoming season.
Kevin Alter (5-7, 144) and Earl McLaurin (5-10, 171) will both compete for playing time at the point guard position. Last year, Alter became the first freshman to start a season opener at point guard since the 2004-05 season and just the third since freshmen became eligible to play in 1973. However, Alter wore down late in the year, appearing in 16 games and averaging 1.1 ppg. A tough competitor, Alter has worked diligently on his game during the offseason and gives the Mids some toughness at the spot.
McLaurin spent last season on the junior varsity team, but like Alter, had a great offseason and will compete for minutes at the point guard. A left-hander, McLaurin is crafty with the ball and is an excellent passer which will help him possibly get on the floor.
Chall Montgomery (6-2, 197) showed flashes last year at the off-guard position, but DeChellis is looking for more consistency for the sophomore from Cleveland. He appeared in 11 games, averaging 1.4 ppg and 0.6 rpg a year ago. A fantastic athlete, Montgomery is likely the best dunker on the team and his athleticism could help him get on the floor.
Four freshmen enter the fray in 2012-13 and all could be counted on to contribute significantly. Point guard Tilman Dunbar (5-10, 153) comes from Paul VI Catholic, a powerful high school squad that went 35-3 a year ago in one of the toughest high school conferences in the country while being ranked in the nation's top 15 for most of the year. Dunbar averaged 10.4 ppg, 7.2 apg and 3.1 spg and has been called a "jet with the ball" and "a real game-changer" by recruiting analysts. He was honored as the team MVP and was an All-Met honorable mention selection after recording a pair of triple-doubles as well as a 14-point, 15-assist, seven-rebound outing during the Virginia Independent School (VIS) Quarterfinals.
Kendall Knorr (6-3, 190) will push for time at the shooting guard / small forward position. An outstanding shooter, Knorr averaged 17.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.8 apg and 3.2 spg at Concord (N.C.) High School and was selected to play in the Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic, an all-star game between the top players in North and South Carolina. While competing that weekend, Knorr won the three-point competition, showing off his strength as a shooter. Knorr is a very smart player with a good knowledge of the game and will be able to possibly play three positions (shooting guard, small forward and point guard).
Phil Guglielmo (6-5, 186) will give Navy depth at the shooting guard / small forward positions and gives DeChellis yet another strong shooter. Guglielmo averaged 14.4 ppg and 3.7 rpg at St. Stephens & St. Agnes High School as a senior, but has grown two inches since committing to Navy a year ago. Guglielmo gets great lift on his shot making it easy to shoot over the defense and get his shot off easily.
Ryan Spadaford (6-4, 182) provides a rugged, hard-working player who could possibly play three different positions showing off his versatility. As a senior at South Side High School, Spadaford averaged about 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists per game despite standing just 6-4. He was a fifth-team all-New York selection and a first-team all-Nassau County (Long Island) as senior. Spadaford is a tough, competitive player that plays with a lot of passion and energy. He will give the Midshipmen much-needed depth at three positions.
In addition to Knorr, Spadaford and Guglielmo possibly being able to play the small forward position, DeChellis welcomes back just two forwards with experience. Leading the way is 2012 Patriot League all-Rookie team honoree Worth Smith (6-6, 203). Smith, a sophomore from Mooresville, N.C., overcame injuries a year ago to average 6.8 ppg and 5.0 rpg while leading all Patriot League players in offensive rebounds per game in all games played. He picked it up during league play, where he averaged 6.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg and recorded three double-doubles on the season, the sixth most by a freshman in school history. He has added about 15 pounds to his wiry frame and will be a focal point of the Navy attack in 2012-13.
Junior James Loupos (6-6, 197) has played in 59 of a possible 60 games during his two years at Navy and averaged 2.4 ppg and 1.5 rpg in 13.4 mpg a year ago. Loupos has provided depth, a strong work rate and a defensive presence in the interior for the last two years and has worked on his offensive range in the offseason to become a more versatile player.
Freshmen Will Kelly (6-9, 211) and Jerome Alexander (6-6, 192) will also strengthen Navy's interior, although Kelly could also be classified as a center. Kelly will compete for immediate playing time after averaging 8.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 3.1 bpg at The Hun School (N.J.) a year ago. Kelly runs the floor very well, has good hands, can score around the hoop and can alter shots on the defensive end. Humble and hard-working, Kelly has a bright future at Navy and can develop into a very good player for the program.
Alexander spent the last year at The Hill School (Pa.) and averaged 12.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg while shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from three-point range while at The Hill School in his lone season there. He helped Radford High School (Va.) to state titles in 2009 and 2011, earning 2011 state title game MVP honors. Alexander is a face-up power forward that plays hard all the time, has great energy and a good motor. He is a strong rebounder that can play the small forward position as well depending on the lineup. A strong defender, Alexander will give the Midshipmen a toughness and hard-working effort in the post.
CENTER Jared Smoot (6-10, 247) is the team's lone true center, although Kelly could also be called a center. Smoot is a huge post presence that appeared in 18 games last year, averaging 0.8 ppg and 1.7 rpg in just 8.2 minutes per game. Four of his six field goals made came on thunderous dunks, and the athletic Indiana native runs the floor very well for someone his size. Smoot, who has a wingspan of 7-5, has worked very hard during the offseason to become a more-complete player on both ends of the floor, and his improvement could be a key to Navy's success during the upcoming season.
Navy will ease into the 2012-13 schedule with its first three games at home, coming against Marymount (Nov. 9), Siena (Nov. 11) and Binghamton (Nov. 14). After that, Navy hits the road for an eight-day, four-game trip as part of the South Padre Island (Texas) Invitational. The Mids will play at Conference USA member UAB and Big 12 member TCU before hitting the island off the coast of Texas to take on Prairie View A&M and either Fairleigh Dickinson or Delaware State.
Navy returns home for the first of two games against IPFW on Nov. 28, before embarking on another three-game road-trip, hitting the Big Easy on Dec. 1 to play Tulane, before returning to take on Monmouth (Dec. 5) and Mount St. Mary's (Dec. 7). Navy closes out its pre-exam schedule with a Dec. 10 game against Bryant in Alumni Hall.
The Midshipmen close out its non-conference schedule with home games on Dec. 22 against Northern Kentucky and Dec. 28 against Albany before taking to the road for contests at IPFW (Jan. 2) and Norfolk State (Jan. 5).
Navy starts Patriot League play on Jan. 12 at Lafayette and will play Holy Cross (Jan. 16), at Army (Jan. 20), at American (Jan. 23), Colgate (Jan. 26), Lehigh (Jan. 30) and at Bucknell (Feb. 2), before the second half of the league schedule commences in the same order on Feb. 9 with Lafayette.
The Patriot League figures to have one of its strongest seasons in league history as Lehigh, Bucknell and American all competed in the postseason a year ago, highlighted by Lehigh's win over Duke in the NCAA Tournament and Bucknell's victory over Arizona in the NIT Tournament. There is a potential of two NBA Draft picks competing in the league in Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and Bucknell's Mike Muscala and several other teams return all-league players, possibly making this season the deepest and most-talented season in Patriot League history.
In 2013-14, Boston U. and Loyola (Md.) join the Patriot League and both are picked to win their respective conference races in the 2012-13 season.