- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — Navy guard Isaiah Roberts looked around Alumni Hall on Monday and saw plenty of faces who weren’t around the Midshipmen’s program last season.

Ten freshmen. A revamped staff. And, most noticeably, a new coach.

No one’s wearing stickers declaring “Hello, my name is …” at practice. But it’s understandable why it would be a possibility.

“It feels like I’m a freshman all over again,” Roberts said.

He fits right into a youthful team certain to play far differently under new coach Ed DeChellis, who arrived from Penn State in May.

The Mids (11-20 a season ago) relied on a rapid tempo and 3-pointers under former coach Billy Lange, who departed after seven years to become an assistant coach at Villanova. DeChellis, meanwhile, preaches defense, rebounding and valuing possession and had one of the nation’s most deliberate teams last season.

In that sense, it might be a blessing the Mids barely possess a modicum of experience. The 20 players on Navy’s roster have played college basketball for a combined 14 seasons.

The veteran ranks are especially thin. Jordan Sugars, who enters his third year as a starter, is the only upperclassman who has lettered. Navy’s other three juniors and seniors have scored a combined 27 points in their careers.

“Sometimes when you take over a team that maybe is a senior- and junior-laden team, they’ve got their ideas cemented in their mind with how they think things should be,” DeChellis said. “Sometimes trying to change habits of guys that are older is a little more challenging. As we try to portray it, this has been pretty refreshing. Everyone’s come in and it’s a new slate.”

It carries its share of challenges as well. The Mids’ inexperience will likely surface at times, especially early as the transition to DeChellis‘ system continues to take root.

Still, there’s a solid case to be made this is perhaps the most ideal time for Navy to undergo such a substantial shift in on-court philosophy.

“It is different than last year a little bit,” sophomore forward J.J. Avila said. “The good thing is obviously the 10 freshmen weren’t here last year and the six of us sophomores, we only had a year so it really wasn’t that much. This change that we’re going through doesn’t hurt us too bad.”

NOTES: One job DeChellis still must fill is point guard. “Don’t know, and I’m not trying to be a wiseguy,” DeChellis said of the situation, which includes several candidates who have displayed inconsistency to date.

c Roberts, a point guard possibility after playing at the two as a freshman, has practiced only one day because of a knee injury. DeChellis said he hopes Roberts is back by the beginning of next week.