For Ed DeChellis’ Navy men’s basketball program, there’s almost nowhere to go this season but up.
In his first season in Annapolis, DeChellis’ Midshipmen labored through a 3-26 season, which included a 0-14 mark in Patriot League play. The former Penn State coach returns several members of that 2011-12 team, including junior guard Isaiah Roberts, sophomore forward Worth Smith, junior guard Brennan Wyatt, junior guard Thurgood Wynn, junior forward James Loupos and sophomore guard Donya Jackson (Calvert Hall). But there will also be an influx of youth at the Academy this winter.
DeChellis has welcomed seven freshmen to Navy this summer: Jerome Alexander, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound wing from Radford, Va.; Tilman Dunbar, a 5-foot-10, 150-pound point guard from Woodbridge, Va.; Phil Guglielmo, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound wing from Springfield, Va.; Will Kelly, a 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward from Mount Laurel, N.J.; Kendall Knorr, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard from Concord, N.C.; Richard Kuzma, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard from Leesburg, Va.; and Ryan Spadaford, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound wing from Rockville Centre, N.Y.
DeChellis spoke with The Sun last week about Navy’s incoming class, the Mids’ returning players, what went wrong last year, and how much better the team should be in 2012-13.
Let’s start with the freshmen. What can you tell us about Jerome Alexander?
Well he’s a high-energy guy. At 6-7, he’s a face-up 4 man who can shoot the ball, drive the ball, and again, he plays with a great deal of energy and emotion. He’s a pretty skilled guy. When he plays out there, he’s all over the place, which is a good thing. He loves to play. He wants to be a Marine, and so he sort of plays like a Marine. He’s a tough kid and he enjoys sticking his nose in there and doing all the dirty work. He’s going to be a very good player for us, I hope.
Tilman Dunbar is next on the list, a semi-local guy from a top program in Paul VI. What do you like about him?
He’s a very outstanding point guard. I was really, really impressed with him this summer – his ball speed, his ability to create for other guys. He’s a very, very unselfish player. He can score the ball. He can drive to the basket. He also has a knack at driving toward the basket, drawing all the help and finding the open guy. And I think the thing that he does really well is make other guys better. He puts our other guys in position to be successful and he makes other guys better. His speed with the ball is just outstanding. He can be a great on-ball defender. He’s a young man who I think has a really, really bright future here.
What do you see in Phil Guglielmo?
Phil has grown. He’s about 6-6 now. He’ll probably, we think, will grow another inch at least. He’s a tremendous perimeter shooter. He’s long and lengthy and shoots over guys. I think that, right now, is his best attribute. We’re working on some other things he needs to be able to do in his development. But he can make shots in bunches. And he’s so tall that he can shoot over guys. So we really think he has a chance to help us this year as well.
Will Kelly, at 6-9, is the biggest recruit you’re bringing in. What do you see in him?
He’s 6-9, maybe 6-8, athletic, long, great communicator on the floor. He blocks shots, plays hard and he rebounds the ball. He’s just going to get better and better with his time here. He’s a kid who’s going to put on additional weight and strength. He has some nice post moves. Again, I think this is a tremendous opportunity for him. He will definitely play this year as well. I see the kid playing, just because he plays so hard that he’s a factor in each game. He’s a young guy that will continue to mature and develop. He’s going to be a special player before it’s all over.
Kendall Knorr is next on the list. What do you like about him?
He’s got a really good feel for the game. Good passer, tremendous shooter from the perimeter. He has sort of like a Chris Mullin shot from back in the day. He’s got a really picture-perfect left-handed jump shot. He’s composed and has a very good feel for the game. He has a very good demeanor about him, very good speed and he always plays under control. At 6-3, he’s a guy with a good body, a good build. He’s a strong kid. He’s a kid, again, that shoots the ball very well. He wills his guys to win and shoots the ball very, very well.
Richard Kuzma is a legacy recruit, correct?
Yes. His father and uncles [went to Navy]. He had a tremendous high school career. I’m really glad to have him in the program. He’s a tremendous perimeter shooter as well. And that’s something we’ve tried to get – guys who can shoot the ball. We were a very poor shooting team last year. We really wanted guys who can shoot the basketball. That’s a skill that [you really need to be] competitive at the college level. Richard can really shoot the basketball. He’s a hard worker and a very bright young guy. We’re very, very happy to have him in the program.
Finally, Ryan Spadaford is the last guy you’re bringing in. What type of player is he?
Ryan’s the kind of guy who’s a tough kid that can play a couple different positions. At 6-4, he can score around the basket. He can shoot, and he kind of does a lot of things well. I don’t have him penciled in for a [specific] position because I think you can move him around. His versatility is a great attribute for us, because he can drive against bigger guys with the basketball, post up smaller guys and shoot the 3. He’s a versatile player. We can move him around and play different spots. His versatility is really important for us.
Of these newcomers, is there one in particular that you absolutely need to make an impact this season?
Well, Tilman is going to play for us. Our point guard position is up in the air. We’ve got two guys who played the position this past year in Brennan Wyatt and Kevin Alter, but we don’t have a lot of great experience. Wyatt got a little more, but Tilman adds some speed to the team and adds some intangibles that right now, we don’t have. I’m hoping he can come along and be a guy who can play quality minutes for us.