The Washington Times - January 5, 2009, 04:45PM

Billy Lange was just about done his assessment of Friday night’s victory over Wofford when the Navy coach pretty much said what was clear to anyone who had seen the Midshipmen a couple times this season.

“I think the two most important guys for us if we want to be a good team by the end of the year are O.J. [Avworo]’s development and Mark Veazey’s development,” Lange said. “I’m talking overall.”

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That’s because Chris Harrisis developed, Kaleo Kinais developed and Adam Teague is developed. Not that those three starters can’t get better. It’s just that Lange knows what he’ll get from them.

Avworo is the Mids’ point guard as they head into tonight’s game at Elon, and he already warranted his own blog post this afternoon. But if Avworo stumbles, there’s a way to get another point guard in there. It might be inconvenient, but other permutations are possible.

Veazey is 6-foot-11. In Patriot League terms, he might as well be 7-foot-2. Which means he can dramatically influence a game at that level.

He’s also the only guy taller than 6-foot-8 who is part of Navy’s rotation at this stage.

“We’re certainly a different team when he’s not on the court,” Lange said.

He probably wasn’t there enough on Friday. Foul trouble kept him to 21 minutes. But there were some glimpses at the offensive end that suggested he might be growing more than his 7.7 points and 6.2 rebounds a game suggest (up from 3.7 points and 4.1 rebounds as a freshman).

There is a substantial difference between having the big fella on the floor for 26 minutes (as his average suggests) and 21 minutes. Against Wofford, it opened things up for some athletic forward – guys who aren’t huge, but certainly capable of inflicting serious damage if there isn’t an interior obstacle.

That’s what Veazey represents when he’s there, and his absence creates a serious hole for Navy.

“It’s funny. When a guy wants to develop, it’s always at one end at the floor,” Lange said. “It’s on the offensive end. I told my staff, we’re not waiting until Mark Veazey a junior for him to be a good defensive player. I’m not waiting until he’s 260 pounds. He’s gotta start taking ownership in that now. I think if he did that, then he’d even be better offensively.”

Navy would happily take the points. But fortifying the inside is going to be a priority over the next two months, and there’s no question Veazey is by far the Mids’ best option for that role for the rest of this season.

Lange’s right. If Avworo develops offensively and Veazey emerges as a defensive anchor, Navy’s ceiling will be a whole lot higher.

Patrick Stevens