There were 19 players at Navy basketball practice Monday, nearly half of them freshmen and only two, senior guard Jordan Sugars and sophomore forward J.J. Avila, who started for the Midshipmen last season.
Yet new coach Ed DeChellis sees potential depth where there's inexperience as he enters his first season in Annapolis.
"You're evaluated by four or five coaches [watching] tape every day," DeChellis said during the team's Media Day at Alumni Hall. "We'll have to narrow some things down and that doesn't mean where you start now is where you're going to finish."
DeChellis, hired in April from Penn State, can carry 15 players on the roster and plans to utilize the most organized junior varsity program Navy has had since the days of Don DeVoe, who coached the Midshipmen for 12 seasons ending in 2003-2004.
"All the guys who played here and played quality minutes and won championships and [played on] NCAA tournament teams, they all played on the JV squad," DeChellis said. "That's been a consistent theme."
DeChellis also hopes to develop a program at the Naval Academy Preparatory School similar to the feeder system that has been at the root of the football team's success. That decision was made after talking with DeVoe and Paul Evans, who coached Navy in its heyday with David Robinson, as well as former players and assistants Doug Wojcik and Emmett Davis.
"They were very insistent about NAPS, that you had to get that program going," DeChellis said. "You put six kids there, maybe eight, and you get those kids down here the following year, they're older, bigger stronger, they understand the system. They walk on campus, it's not all a shock to them."
If anything, a majority of the Midshipmen have a deer-in-the-headlights quality to them as they prepare for a season that begins Nov. 11 at Longwood. The system DeChellis used at Penn State — a low-scoring, defensive-based philosophy — is to former coach Billy Lange's freelance offense what the spread is to Navy's triple option.
"It's night and day," said Sugars, who averaged 16 points and six rebounds as a junior. "The concepts are a little bit different. It's pretty much changing up old habits that I was so used to and now implementing the new [system] coach has."
The same can be said for DeChellis' own adjustment to Navy. After coaching the past eight years at Penn State —taking the Nittany Lions to the most recent NCAA tournament — and the seven previous years at East Tennessee State (with one NCAA appearance), DeChellis sought guidance from those who have coached in Annapolis.
Summing up the advice he was given, DeChellis said, "Don't be easy on them because you think they had a hard day. Keep being demanding because you've got to keep pushing the envelope. The level of intensity will be the same every day whether they've been up since whenever."
DeChellis has also come to realize that some of the things he has done in the past might have to adhere to Navy's traditions and protocol.
"The academy has been here a little longer than me," he said.
Navy is hoping that DeChellis can achieve a consistent level of success that has eluded the Midshipmen since DeVoe's teams had eight straight winning seasons and averaged more than 19 wins a year during that stretch. In seven years, Lange's teams had only two winning seasons and won as many as 19 only once, in 2008-09.
Then again, DeChellis has an interesting history with Patriot League teams as well as teams on this year's schedule. DeChellis' record against teams from the Patriot League is 9-0 and his overall record against those the Midshipmen will face this season is 12-1, the only loss coming to Tulane.
DeChellis wasn't aware of that.
"That will probably change," he said with a smile.
It won't be the only thing at Navy.