The adage “seen but not heard” can sometimes be applied to the plebes at the Naval Academy. But the freshmen have helped the men’s basketball team to a three-game winning streak.
A core group of first-year players has converted 42.1 percent (16-of-38) of its field-goal attempts and has averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds in the program’s victories over UMBC (73-58 on Nov. 23), UMES (67-59 on Nov. 26) and The Citadel (79-74 on Dec. 4).
In the team’s first five games, freshmen connected on 37.7 percent (26-of-69) of its shots from the floor and averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Midshipmen (5-3).
Coach Ed DeChellis said the plebes’ slow start shouldn’t be surprising.
“The freshmen were freshmen, and they hadn’t been in the games,” he said Wednesday. “So it was all new to them. I think the freshmen are starting to get a little more comfortable and have played some quality minutes now. So I think our bench play early was not very good, and that’s because that’s who we were. And now I think the kids are starting to get a little more comfortable, and they’re getting more time. So they’re not like, ‘Holy smokes, what am I doing?’”
Two other developments during the team’s run have caught DeChellis’ attention. The starters have raised their games, averaging 52.7 points, 26 rebounds and 13 assists. Those numbers are improvements from the 41.8-point, 20.8-rebound and 10.8-assist averages recorded in the first five games.
And four different starters have led the team in scoring with sophomore point guard Tillman Dunbar, sophomore shooting guard Kendall Knorr, junior small forward Brandon Venturini and junior power forward Worth Smith with two high scores each.
“I think the key has been that we’ve had different guys step up throughout the games that we’ve won here recently – whether guys are starters or guys are off the bench,” DeChellis said. “We’ve had some freshmen step up and play some big minutes for us off the bench, which has been really, really helpful. And that’s the key. That’s why we’re a team sport.”
Finally, the players have been shooting at a much more efficient rate. During the three-game winning streak, the team has shot 44.6 percent (70-of-157). In the first five games, the success rate dipped to 40.6 percent (119-of-293).
“We’ve gotten more layups,” DeChellis noted. “We’ve pushed the ball a little bit better and we’ve gotten more layups and more runouts, which have led to easier shots, which obviously helps your percentage. We’re not shooting the ball from three[-point range] very well. But what we’ve done in those wins is we’ve made timely shots, timely threes. We’re still in 30 percent as a three-point shooting team, which is not good. We want to be much better than that, and I think we will be.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun