- Atheists sue to remove ‘Ground Zero Cross’ from 9/11 museum
- Bishop in Aleppo: ‘We Christians live in fear in Syria’
- Oscar Pistorius vomits during graphic testimony
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford flubs daylight saving time advice: ‘Turn your clocks back’
- Americans don’t support sending U.S. troops to Ukraine
- Florida lawmakers move to wipe corrupt ‘Boss Hogg’ town from map
- N.C. math whiz to unveil secret of March Madness picks
- An appealing offer: Chiquita merges with Fyffes to make world’s largest banana firm
- Amnesty International says Syria guilty of war crimes for food blockade
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: ‘We are going to crush them’
A season on the Sprink
ANNAPOLIS — Billy Lange watched his first Navy team lose to Gettysburg a night earlier, so there were probably any number of reasons he would pop in a tape of the 2001 U.S. Merchant Marine Academy team he coached to the Division III Sweet 16.
It was a day after Lange didn’t even bother to play Greg Sprink, a freshman who contributed some but was particularly sluggish in practice for the Midshipmen that week. But as he assessed the identity of his old team — guard-oriented, capable of moving the ball, driving and kicking it out to an open man — Lange had an epiphany.
Of all the players he inherited with the Mids, Sprink most resembled the guys who created past success.
“I remember saying to myself that night, ‘I just have to go through it with him,’ ” Lange recalled this week.
So he has. And more than three years later, Sprink averages a Patriot League-best 20.9 points as the Midshipmen (15-12, 8-4) enter tonight’s showdown for first place with American (17-10, 9-3) at Alumni Hall.
The germination of his productive career came a day after Lange’s bleary-eyed film session. Lange called Sprink into his office and told the surprised freshman he would start the next game.
“It showed me how much faith and how much time and effort he wanted to put into my development, not only as a person but as a basketball player and the confidence he had in me,” the 6-foot-5 Sprink said. “That kind of showed me a lot.”
There were caveats. It wasn’t guaranteed to be permanent, and Lange promised to keep pushing Sprink as much as he had throughout the preseason.
But the mutual commitment was there — from Lange in considering the long-term ramifications for the program and from Sprink to continue to come early and stay late to improve his game.
There were competitive bumps. The Mids went 10-18 in consecutive seasons as both Sprink and Lange grew into their roles. Last season, Navy couldn’t build on a 9-3 start and wound up 14-16. And just as the team could play uneven at times, so could Sprink.
“I know my freshman and sophomore year and even a little bit last year, if I wasn’t scoring and wasn’t having a good game, I kind of became my own person and went away from the whole oneness of the team,” Sprink said. “I think that’s one way how I’ve matured.”
With a little growth and a heavy reliance on perimeter play (Navy used a five-guard set for much of the second half of Saturday’s victory at Army), the Midshipmen are playing meaningful games in late February for the first time since 2001.
“Throughout the whole process, Greg has been his mainstay,” junior guard Kaleo Kina said. “Without him, we’d probably still be a good team, but he’s the piece that shows us how to persevere through everything.”
Everything covers quite a bit, from quickly committing himself to a coach who didn’t recruit him to enduring a lot of losing to showing up at Halsey Field House at 6:30 a.m. over the summer to take some extra shots.
Yet it’s rubbed off on a team with only two seniors on the roster.
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CURL: Today's GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- Russia besieges Crimea as U.S. seeks diplomacy; Putin remains undeterred by Obama's sanctions
- Investigators puzzle: How does a 777 jetliner just disappear into thin air?
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again