Midshipmen should be better

It was a strange year in Annapolis last season, where the Midshipmen suffered what was probably the most embarrassing loss in league history, losing at home to a mediocre Division III Gettysburg team, only to come on strong at the end of the season, winning four of their last five home games, including an upset of Bucknell.

The Mids took Holy Cross to the wire before losing 68-66 in their lone home loss of the second half of the season and they took American to overtime in the first round of the league tournament.

It was probably as drastic an improvement as the league has seen in a long time and if Navy continues to get better at that pace, they might be very, very good this season.

“I think another shocker is going to be Navy . . . Navy is going to get good very quickly. You mark my words. They will be in the top of the league in no time,” said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard at the league’s preseason media day.

“When you can bring in 8 or 9 guys every year, you can improve dramatically.”

O.K., Ralph was stretching things a little. Navy is only bringing in six recruits this season.

But you get the point. Despite the near constant whining about not having athletic scholarships, Navy actually has the advantage of being able to give a virtually unlimited number of full rides to recruits. Without the NCAA’s limits to worry about, Navy can bring in as many players each year as it wants, stashing some on the jayvee team and some at the Naval Academy Prep School, where they get what is essentially a redshirt year.

As the old saying goes, if you throw enough against the wall, some is bound to stick.

Of course it doesn’t all stick. The Mids had seven juniors on the roster last season, but only four seniors this year. A sophomore from last season’s team is also gone this year.

Lange is not losing any sleep over those lost players, though. The four departees combined appeared in just 24 games, playing a total of 117 minutes, scoring 41 combined points and yanking down 21 rebounds. To put that in perspective, that was less production than Lange got from his top five returning players in an average single game last season.

All six freshmen are expected to see action at some point in the season and at least three, maybe as many as five, will likely end up in the rotation. That might make it tough sledding for Navy early in the season again this year.

“A key for us right away is going to be to improve on some things we needed to improve on at the end of last year—our ability to play hard without fouling and taking care of the basketball. We are going to have to do that while playing some freshmen, so that is going to be a little bit of a challenge for us,” Lange said.

“We have a good nucleus back with Matt Fannin, David Hooper, Leonard Green, Greg Sprink and Corey Johnson. We don’t have to depend soley on our young kids because we have got good returning guys coming back.”

Those five players accounted for over 60 percent of Navy’s scoring last season and nearly half its rebounds. For a team that lost seven players from its roster of a year ago, that is a pretty solid core.

Fannin, a 6-6 senior forward, led Navy in scoring (10.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg) last season.

“Fannin is a senior anchor down in the low post for us,” Lange said. “Once he gets it in the lane, he is very comfortable. He very, very rarely loses his composure when he has the ball with people around him. He can pivot. He can shoot the ball with his right hand or his left hand. He is our go to guy down there.”

If Fannin improves his free throw shooting – last year he shot just 62 percent from the line—Fannin could have a very big year.

Hooper and Johnson ranked 3 and 4 on the Mids’ scoring ledger last season, both averaging just under 10 ppg and Sprink was not far behind with his 8.7 ppg average. In fact, in league games, Sprink actually scored more than Hooper and Johnson, averaging 10.1 ppg.

Hooper, a 6-5 senior, led Navy in three-pointers last season with 51. Johnson, a 6-1 guard, was an all-rookie pick last year after leading Navy in assists and steals. Sprink also was an all-rookie selection. His 5.1 rebounds and 34 three-pointers made were third on the team last season. His 36.6 percent shooting from three-point range was Navy’s best.

Green, a 6-5 senior, is looking to regain the starting job he held at the beginning of last season, before now-graduated George O’Garro emerged to take Green’s job.

It is, as Lange said, a solid nucleus, and if the youngsters step up, Navy could once again make waves in the second half of the season.

In the meantime, the Midshipmen should be much better than they were early last season.

One thing is certain: This year’s Navy team will not lose to Gettysburg. After being on Navy’s schedule 13 straight seasons, the Bullets have been unceremoniously dumped, with our old buddy Frank Marcinek’s Susquehanna team taking that spot on the Mids schedule.

The DIII Crusaders will visit Annapolis Dec. 29, giving us a good excuse for a visit to Chickie and Ruth's for some crab soup.

Navy Schedule
Navy Roster

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