Onward basketball soldiers

Kyle Whelliston showed up Saturday night in Lewisburg. The self-dubbed "narrator" of the Mid-Majority site was looking for a game that fit his 100-game itinerary, and Army at Bucknell fit the ticket.

From what I could piece together from our conversations during halftime and after the game, Kyle overcame his reservations about the anticipated mismatch because Mapquest showed he could swing through Lewisburg on the way from a Saturday afternoon game in Philly to a Sunday game in Binghamton, N.Y.

When cable TV convinced Drexel to change the start time of its game with William and Mary, Kyle decided to come see his favorite point guard anyhow.

Kyle was there, but no TV cameras bothered to show (not they are common at Bucknell home games). If you weren't there either, you missed seeing Badmus chase down Army's Travis Owsley from behind, after spotting Owsley about a seven-yard head start, to swat the Army guard's layup out of midair. It was one of those Sportscenter Top 10 kind of defensive plays that Badmus is beginning to make a habit of; the kind of play that had to make Kyle glad he'd made the trip and surely reinforced his already high opinion of Badmus.

After the game, Kyle asked if I was going to write something about how bad Army is. "No," I told him. "Why don't you write it and I will link to it."

Kyle kept his end of the bargain; we'll keep ours. As usual, it is a good read.

I'm not sure I completely agree with everything Kyle says. For example, he points to having seven different leading scorers in its first 15 games as evidence Army lacks a go to guy.

I'd argue that because they have only one guy they could consider a go to guy, Matt Bell, when teams take Bell away, nobody else is an obvious second option.

Not sure, either, his characterization of my thoughts on Army's defensive strategy is completely in context. My recollection is the discussion was more about how over the years Army has tried to compensate for being undersized with brute strength and physical play. Seems to me the name David Ardayfio was part of that conversation, which should help with context for longtime followers of the league.

But by an large, Kyle's assessment of the Black Knights, and the black hole the program seems to be in, seems pretty much on the money.

I might have tried to find, perhaps, kinder words than "awkward, gangly, clumsy and blindingly Caucasian" to describe the Cadets. But Kyle is right, the Cadets are "ill-equipped" for their basketball mission.

They are not bad players. This Army team played as hard Saturday night as any team we have seen all season. They fought through screens, hustled all over the floor and did everything they possibly could to win the game. Even when the outcome was determined, with plenty of the second half to play, Army did not slow down, did not give up or give in.

Bucknell beat the Cadets in the second half, but they hardly wore them down. Army suffered in the war of attrition, losing two of the three players 6-6 or taller on the roster to fouls. But they never tired, never weakened, certainly never gave up. Army played as hard in the final 30 seconds, down 17, as it did when it held the lead for a lengthy stretch of the first half.

It must be comforting to the Department of Defense to know this is the kind of warriors the USMA is turning out. I've always said I sleep well at night knowing guys like Hassan Booker are guarding the country, and the same goes for the kids from Army.

The problem, though, as Kyle points out, this team just doesn't have the weapons needed to fight this battle. I'm not getting all political with this analogy. We'll leave that to Kyle. But Army, in reality, is a Division 3 roster playing a Division I schedule.

Jimmy Sewell would be a dominant player in D-3. He is athletic, with decent springs and 3-point range on his jumper. And he is 6-11, which is Neil Fingleton tall for D3.

But Sewell doesn't have the appetite for Division I ball. We're not talking hunger to play the game, here. We're being literal. Either Sewell doesn't eat enough or he has a warp-speed metabolism. Either way, he is skinny as Dubya's winning margin over Gore. D-I post players can gain position, or move him off the blocks, just by breathing on him.

When Sewell sits down, it goes from bad to worse, with 6-6 sophomore Ryan Wallace lacking the vertical elevation skills needed to compensate for his lack of height against guys like Bucknell's Chris McNaughton or Holy Cross's Nate Lufkin. The only other guy taller than 6-4 is Colin Harris, who is a 6-6 swingman type trying to play power forward out of necessity. The 6-4 kid is a freshman who sees little playing time.

The Cadets are so small, they actually list the next three biggest guys-- a pair of 6-2 sophomores and a 6-3 freshman-- as guard/forwards. The rest of the roster, save maybe Bell, is interchangeable with any good D-3 team, a collection of the type of little guards that you find in almost any high school gym. Driveway shooters and decent ballhandlers who don't have the hops to play bigger than they are or the quickness to beat you off the dribble.

There's obviously no immediate answer on the current roster. None of the guys listed on the 19-man roster in the media guide who didn't dress for the Bucknell game is over 6-4.

Bad luck might be part of the problem. For example, the Cadets had a 6-8 kid from Indiana who apparently had some game (he had a 47-point, 23-rebound night in one HS game, impressive numbers even in the Northern Tier League) signed last year. But the kid never ended up on the roster. One report (from a message board, so who knows how accurate it is) says he turned out to be color blind, thus failing his military physical.

Crews might have some potential help "redshirting" at Army's prep school, though.

Don Devoe was a master at using Navy's prep school to stash and season players, which is especially helpful when you are in a situation where most big men you can recruit fall into the "project" category.

The USMAPS basketball Web site doesn't list heights on its roster page, so it is hard to tell who might fit that category. But a couple guys show at least some promise.

From the results page on the USMAPS site, it appears a kid named Doug Williams, who the roster lists as a center, is playing pretty well. He had a 20-point, 25-rebound night against what the site refers to as "an undersized Northampton Community College." At a quick glance, it looks like Williams has scored in double figures 8 of USMAPS' 11 games and in double figures rebounding at least three times, with two double-doubles and three other games where he missed a dub-dub by one rebound.

We tried unsuccessfully to Google for info on Williams' high school days.

We did find a little on another kid listed as a center.

Brandon Brandewie is a 6-9, or 6-10, depending which story you read, kid from Ohio who one recruiting service ranked in the top 60 seniors in the Buckeye State last year. He had a 20-point, 17-rebound double-double for USMAPS in one game this season.

Here's what it said in a piece about him on the FanFileMagazine.com site:
When rival coaches and scouts talk about him, he's generally referred to as a project...as having potential...a late bloomer in the game of basketball...even a disappointment for the impact, at 6'9", that he's had on the Lehman program over the past two years.

The third guy listed as a post type player is 6-8 Trent Dow from the Seattle area. We found a bunch of box scores from his high school games. Six points appears to have been his career high. His name doesn't appear in any of the game result capsules on the USMAPS site, so we wouldn't expect him to provide any immediate help if he even does make the Army roster next year.

There is also a kid named Kenny Brewer, who is listed as a forward, that appears to be USMAPS top scorer. Brewer is a 6-7 kid from Charlotte (Fla.) H.S. who looks like he could help Army.

A preps site called Breakdown Magazine described Brewer like so:
He is a senior at Charlotte. He is a 6'6 forward. He has long arms and he has a consistent 12-15 foot jump shot and he can score from behind the arch. In addition, Brewer runs the floor and is a threat in the post. He is a D1 player. He can really upgrade his game if he becomes a better ball handler and work on his quickness. In addition he has to improve his shot selection.
It remains to be seen if any of these kids will contribute for the Cadets. For that matter, there is no assurance any of them will transition to West Point next year.

But when your program is ranked No. 330 out of 330, you have to find something encouraging wherever you can.

In other words, dare to think big Army fans, you can hardly get any smaller.

(Tomorrow: A look at Army's coaching carousel)

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