Q&A with Navy Blog The Birddog

4guysinblazers had the opportunity to get some insight on Siena’s first opponent of the season, Navy, from Navy Blogger Mike James, writer of The Birddog.

4guysinblazers: What expectations do you hold for Navy this season?

The BirdDog: So much has changed with the Navy basketball program that it’s hard to say what to expect. The team is 2-0 for the first time in almost a decade, but I don’t think anyone’s going to throw a parade for beating Longwood and PSU-Altoona. Already in two games we’ve seen two different starting lineups as Ed DeChellis tries to figure out what he has to work with. Navy has only 4 players on the roster that are either a junior or a senior, and only one of them (Jordan Sugars) has significant playing time. The lone junior, Jordan Brickman, wasn’t even on the team the last two years. Navy had one of the largest incoming freshmen classes in the country with ten players, so needless to say there are a lot of unknowns.

4guysinblazers: Who are the players to watch on Navy’s squad?

The Birddog: The one known commodity is Sugars. For all of Billy Lange’s faults, every year he seemed to develop a player that was either the POY in the Patriot League or pretty close to it; guys like Greg Sprink, Kaleo Kina, and Chris Harris. Sugars was the next player in line to assume that role. He’s a 6-3 guard that is similar to Sprink in that he’s very much an all-around player, as comfortable behind the arc as he is inside. He is one rebound away from becoming the ninth player in school history with 1000 career points and 500 rebounds, and started the season fifth all-time in career three-pointers made. He started the season by picking up where he left off, scoring 21 points and grabbing 8 rebounds at Longwood. He only played 10 minutes against PSU-Altoona as DeChellis cleared the bench.

The frontcourt is led by sophomore J.J. Avila, last year’s Patriot League ROY. Avila averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds per game against Patriot League competition last season, and was the first Navy freshman in 27 years to average more than 10 points & 5 rebounds for the season. He played his best in Navy’s biggest games, including a 20-point game against Bucknell, 21/11 against NEC champ LIU, and 17/8 against Army. He’s another player that’s comfortable shooting the 3, with 53 made last year to go along with 3 of 4 from long range so far this season.

4guysinblazers: What are Navy’s strengths?

The Birddog: If there’s one strength of the Navy team this year, it’s that they are very athletic. They have to be with their lack of size; at 6-7, Avila is the tallest player that will see significant playing time. Guys like Isaiah Roberts, Thurgood Wynn, and Worth Smith are all tremendous athletes, but the question is how quickly that athleticism will translate into basketball skills.

4guysinblazers: What are the opportunity areas for Navy this season?

The Birddog: Other than the obvious problems of youth and lack of size, another potential speed bump for Navy might be the lack of a true point guard, or at least the lack of one that’s ready to take the lion’s share of the minutes at the position. Teams are going to press Navy because of it, and with the team as inexperienced as it is already it could lead to a lot of turnovers.

Ed DeChellis is just about the exact opposite of Billy Lange in a lot of ways. It’s hard to say how a team full of players recruited to play for Lange will respond. If the Mids can figure themselves out well enough to finish in the top half of the Patriot League, I think that would be a great sign for the future.

Special thanks to Mike James for taking the time to share this information with us. To read more by Mike and about Navy visit his blog http://thebirddog.wordpress.com/.

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