The Navy men's basketball team is off to a fast start. The Midshipmen are 12-5, highlighted by a pair of conference road wins at Boston University Jan. 6 and at Colgate Jan. 9.
Pete Medhurst, the voice of Navy sports, spoke with PressBoxDC.com about Navy's chances in Patriot League play, the team's matchup with rival Army at Madison Square Garden Jan. 23 and more.
PressBox: Has this Navy team exceeded expectations thus far?
PETE MEDHUSRT: It was such a young team that I know most people really did not have any idea what to expect, but they have really come together as a team fast. They all seem to know their roles on the team quite well, and they have played with great discipline -- not turning the ball over and playing great defense. The other key thing this team has done is play well on the road, and that is going to serve them well in conference, as they proved with that big league win against Boston University in their gym. So yes, it has been a wonderful surprise that this team has bolted out to [12-5] start and is [3-1] in the very competitive Patriot League thus far early in the season.
PB: The Patriot League always seems to have outstanding teams. Who are some of the teams fans need to look out for during the 2015-16 season?
PM: The usual suspects remain the favorites, at the top of the conference, with Bucknell, Baltimore's own Loyola of Maryland and Lehigh the teams to beat. But if you look at the bottom of the conference, American and Holy Cross are very capable of beating any team in the league, so we have a competitive conference from top to bottom. All that said, I really think the key to success in this league is to win your home games and then hopefully steal a couple of road wins. If you can do that, then you can get that all important home-court advantage once the tournament comes around.
Really since 2001, when the league started giving out athletic scholarships, things began to change and competition began to be more intense. Suddenly, the level of play got stronger, and we began to see kids finishing their college career with teams in the conference and going into the NBA on a regular basis. That really opened things up to heavy competition and put the service academies in a bit of a bind. But clearly, we both adapted to the higher level of play in the Patriot.
PB: What is it like having Army in the same conference with you?
PM: I think the biggest surprise coming into league play is that both Army and Navy have the best nonconference records. Army has been playing outstanding basketball, and I have to tell you that when I saw that our game against them was moved from West Point to Madison Square Garden, I circled the date of Jan. 23 on my calendar. For me to broadcast a game from the world's most famous arena, and then to have it be an Army-Navy game to boot, is just a great thrill. A big plus for Navy is we are now involved in a neutral court game. I expect that we will have a large number of fans making the trip to New York, and in keeping with our tradition, they will be loud. Also, by playing the game at MSG, that means we get Army at home later in the season, Feb. 20 to be exact, in Annapolis. So both times we face Army this season, we will have plenty of fans on hand, which makes things far more comfortable for the team.
PB: Does head coach Ed DeChellis have a specific style of play?
PM: He looks for someone who loves to play basketball and then takes that love of the game and builds a team full of gym rats. He really doesn't stress any one particular style, like say running the popular Princeton offense that they do at so many schools like Georgetown. Coach DeChellis stresses quality team play with a very strong focus on defense and not turning the ball over. Simply put, play good fundamental basketball and don't beat yourself with turnover -- that is his message.
PB: Which players should Navy fans keep an eye on with this team?
PM: Well, let's start with our two outstanding sophomore stars, 6-foot-4 guard Shawn Anderson, who is from New Castle, Pa., and his running mate, 6-foot-6 forward Jace Hogan, who comes to us from Melbourne, Fla. These two are exceptional players, who can hit the outside shot or drive to the basket and get the hoop as well as drawing a foul. We have also gotten great inside help in the paint this year from our very athletic center, senior Will Kelly, who is 6-foot-9 from Mount Laurel, N.J. He has been a beast on the boards and does a super job at defense, with a great touch for scoring around the basket. Finally, our senior point guard, 5-foot-10 Tilman Dunbar, out of Woodbridge, Va., is our quarterback on the court and does an outstanding job of running the offense. Those are the guys to look out for, but this is a true team effort, and that is why we are off to such a great start.
- Navy Men's Basketball Continues Upward Movement (Dec. 18, 2015)