- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — Ed DeChellis’ first season as Navy’s basketball coach ended on a 22-game losing streak, with a variety of symptoms for the Midshipmen’s struggles.

They were young. They had a new system. Their best player (J.J. Avila) was suspended in the middle of conference play.

One issue, though, stood out beyond everything else.

“The biggest thing for us is we have to find a point guard,” DeChellis said recently.

His first recruiting class might provide the solution.

While DeChellis plans to play his best available players, freshman Tilman Dunbar might be his optimal option at the point. Yes, he’s young. And yes, he’s a bit small (5-foot-10 and 153 pounds).

Considering Navy is coming off a 3-26 season, it might not matter.

“That was one of the biggest factors in my decision,” Dunbar said. “I wanted to come into a situation and make an immediate impact. I didn’t want to sit behind anybody. It’s a rebuilding program, so I could come and step in, and it’s a great coaching staff.”

Playing time is available. Jordan Brickman, who started 20 games last season as a junior after not playing his first two years at Navy, decided to concentrate on academics.

Brickman was one of four players who started at the point at least once, though it hardly mattered. Navy was sloppy throughout the season, a headache only amplified when Avila departed.

“Last year, it was obvious we didn’t have a go-to point guard,” guard Isaiah Roberts said. “We struggled with turnovers, bringing the ball up and everything. This year, everybody’s gotten better.”

That includes junior Brennan Wyatt, who started Sunday’s exhibition loss to Division II Slippery Rock. Sophomores Kevin Alter and Earl McLaurin also contended for the point guard job.

Dunbar, though, probably is the most promising option of the bunch, especially for the long term. He thrived at Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax, averaging 10.4 points, 7.2 assists and 3.1 steals as a senior, on a team littered with Division I talent.

And while it might not be too important, it can’t hurt that the only connection Dunbar has to last season’s struggles is questions he received when he arrived in the offseason.

“During the summer, I heard about it a little bit coming on campus,” Dunbar said. “I really don’t try to think about I’m new here and I’m trying to build a new program, a new legacy.”

It starts Friday when Division III Marymount visits Alumni Hall. Dunbar is part of a large freshman class that also includes guard Kendall Knorr and forward Will Kelly, both of whom are likely to contribute significantly this season.

But Dunbar’s the one who could be asked to do the most, since Navy needs someone to emerge at the point.

“His best attribute is that he’s very fast and very quick and plays at a high level and sometimes his worst attribute is he’s very quick, very fast and plays at a high level and the ball’s going everywhere,” DeChellis said. “We have to try to find a balance in there. He’s trying to find that now.”

It might not prove entirely smooth, either for Dunbar or for the Mids. Still, Dunbar is intent on providing an answer to the biggest of Navy’s many questions.

“Being a freshman point guard in Division I basketball, I know it’s going to be a high learning curve especially on a team that didn’t do so well last year,” Dunbar said. “I’m going to take strides every day and try to learn as much as I can.”

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