-- Chris Trevino
Mount St. Mary's
First-year Mountaineers coach Jamion Christian, 29, has brought excitement back into a program that has won just 19 games the past two seasons, including an 8-21 mark last year. The Mount St. Mary's graduate and former Virginia Commonwealth assistant has worked this offseason to install a new culture and foundation for the Mountaineers.
"[I've been] getting our team to understand it's a daily grind … it's about making a commitment to working hard every day," said Christian, a former three-year captain at his alma mater.
The Mountaineers will be tested in the first half of their schedule, starting with their season opener Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh before taking on Georgetown two weeks later. The Mount is also scheduled to play Indiana, the preseason No. 1 team in the country, in Bloomington on Dec. 19.
The good news for Mount St. Mary's is that it loses just three players from last year's squad and returns its leading scorer in junior Julian Norfleet, who averaged 13.7 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore. The team also adds depth with guards Rashad Whack (George Mason) and Sam Prescott (Marist), both of whom sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
The team returns senior — one of two on the team — forward Raven Barber (an Edgewood native) and his 9.2 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. Taylor Danaher, the team's redshirt freshman 7-footer and only true center on the roster, also looks to be a factor this season.
Tabbed to finish ninth in the Northeast Conference for the second straight year, Christian hopes to use this as motivation to bring back wins to Emmitsburg and build a new team foundation.
"I do believe that has helped motivate them and help them try and reach their full potential and say, 'Let's not waste a day,'" Christian said.
-- Chris Trevino
Isaiah Roberts is ready for his role as one of Navy's basketball captains. It's not only because of what he experienced during his first two seasons in Annaopolis, including a coaching change after his freshmen year and what became a 22-game losing streak as a sophonore.
The 6-1 junior guard, who was named the team's MVP last season despite averaging less than eight points, has prepared for the upcoming season just by going through his daily life at the Naval Academy.
"As a junior, that's one of the bigger years at tha academy [in terms of leadership]. Your job is to train the freshmen," Roberts said Monday. "I'm always out doing something, talking to freshmen or helping the freshmen get more comfortable with the academy academically and everything else.
"It all ties in, because we have so many freshmen on the team."
It is that seven-member freshman class, led by point guard Tilman Dunbar, that second-year Navy coach Ed DeChellis is hoping becomes the cornerstone of the program's turnaround. But DeChellis admits that the process is going even more slowly than he would like.
"Practices for us so far have been consistently inconsistent," said DeChellis, who came from Penn State a year ago. "Guys have not risen to the top. We have not been able to sit down and say, 'Here's our top five, here's our top eight.' It changes every day. That part has been very challenging."
Coaching a team without any seniors for the first time in his career, including 16 as a head coach, DeChellis said, "Right now we're kind of missing that [senior leadership] every day to kind of push guys. That's been really different and that's been one of the challenges."
The upside to that lack of experience — a total of 14 seasons among the 18 players on the roster — is that the team could become closer than others DeChellis has coached in the past.
"I think they all need each other, they understand that," DeChellis said. "If you want to be successful and win games, they are going to have to feed off each other. There's not a hierarchy right now where seniors are going to do this and juniors are going to do this. We're not in that situation. Everybody is kind of doing everything, which is a good thing. Everyone is kind of earning their stripes as they go along."