- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Navy guard Jordan Sugars‘ final season of basketball at the academy will look plenty different than his first three.

The Midshipmen’s 20-man roster is green, strewn with freshmen and sophomores. The green light Sugars was given the past two years is gone.

But the senior is anything but blue about the situation as he and the Mids enter their first season under coach Ed DeChellis.

“I’m still learning,” Sugars said. “It’s going to take some time. I have to break habits I’ve had for three years now. Obviously, I’m still learning every practice. I’m doing the best I can and just trying to jump on board with coach and kind of be another coach out there.”

Navy (11-20 last year) can use all the on-court savvy it can get.

Sugars is the only junior or senior with any significant time to his credit. And the Mids are undergoing a substantial stylistic overhaul as they transition from former coach Billy Lange, who left in May to become Jay Wright’s top assistant at Villanova.

Lange preached a wide-open style with a reliance on the outside shot. Little wonder Sugars has attempted a whopping 388 shots beyond the 3-point line over the past two seasons. It’s hardly an outlier; eight of Navy’s nine largest single-season 3-point attempt totals were logged in the last five seasons.

Enter DeChellis, who left Penn State in one of the offseason’s more intriguing coaching changes. He is basic in his principles: defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball. He also is willing to win ugly, as evidenced by the 36-33 defeat of Wisconsin in last March’s Big Ten tournament that helped book the Nittany Lions’ passage to the NCAA tournament.

All of it begs the question: How will a volume shooter who is easily his team’s most experienced asset and most capable scorer handle the literal change of pace?

“I think he’s going to see the advantages of where he can get the ball and where he can score,” DeChellis said. “It doesn’t always have to be jumpers. It can be an offensive rebound. We’re going to give him the ball in the post some, and we’re going to come up with some things where he can catch the ball in the post.”

Not that every adjustment is instantaneous.

Sugars said DeChellis, who makes his debut with the Mids on Friday at Longwood, will stop practice on occasion to emphasize what players must correct.

For Sugars, it’s a matter of repeating what DeChellis wants, even if it isn’t what he’s used to.

“In my case, I’ll make a move that last year was OK and this year coach is like ‘Slow down, let’s run the offense through,’ ” Sugars said. “It’s totally different. Coach Lange was more of a free-style coach where the guards just kind of go. Coach [DeChellis] is bringing more structure this year. You kind of learn on the fly.”

With a young roster in place, Sugars welcomes the changes.

“It’s a good thing,” Sugars said. “It’s what these young guys need. We can’t have these young guys running out here like they have their heads chopped off.”

Sugars knows with such inexperience surrounding him, maintaining his composure is crucial to the direction of Navy’s season. Sugars hasn’t made it out of the Patriot League quarterfinals in his three seasons and, like any Division I player, harbors hopes of an NCAA tournament appearance to cap his career.

Step one is adapting his game to a vastly different tempo, a step he hopes will help lead to a new postseason result as well as a changed look for the Mids on the court.

“I think he’s done a good job of picking his spots offensively, whether it’s transition or halfcourt,” DeChellis said. “I think he’s really providing great leadership.”