Navy basketball gets knocked down by injuries, hopes to get back up

Welcome back Worth Smith indeed.
Navy's Worth Smith has given the Midshipmen a boost after returning from a knee injury. US Presswire photo by Mark L. Baer
Navy’s Worth Smith has given the Midshipmen a boost after returning from a knee injury. US Presswire photo by Mark L. Baer

It has certainly not been the season Navy basketball head coach Ed DeChellis imagined back when his Midshipmen tipped off their season on Nov. 14 by giving 18th ranked Michigan State everything it could handle. The Mids showed tremendous promise in their 64-59 loss, and it looked like this might be the season they make it out of the Patriot League basement.

Maybe the Mids can still make their move towards the top of the conference, but the journey there will have been anything but a straight line or a smooth ride.

Starting with their season opener, the team has been racked by injuries, while simultaneously playing a schedule full of power conference heavy hitters.

“It’s been a tough schedule, we’ve had a lot of guys hurt and I’m not sure where we’re at,” said DeChellis.

Before the season even began, the Mids lost one of their projected starters, junior guard Kendal Knorr, to a knee injury. Then during the Michigan State game, they lost one of their best players in senior forward Worth Smith to a knee injury. They also lost sophomore wing Michael Brown to a broken jaw and sophomore guard Tim Abruzzo to a torn ACL.

Losing Knorr and Smith pretty much left senior guard Brandon Venturini on the floor as the only proven player capable of consistently producing early on. And the Midshipmen’s 0-4 start and 2-7 continuation was a reflection of being forced to play so many young players against some very strong opponents.

“We’ve played a lot of young kids, and I guess that’s good for the long-term, because they get some experience, but it hasn’t really transferred to the wins and losses,” said DeChellis. “We played a brutal schedule, non-conference, especially really early. We really ran into the buzz saw early with Michigan State, Notre Dame, Providence, Northeastern.”

Navy was able to pick up its first win by scraping past Binghamton, before downing Division III Harrisburg. After losing three straight following their first two wins, the Midshipmen have won two of their last three, knocking off VMI, losing to UMES, and then downing Towson 61-56 for their best win of the year. Against the Tigers, the Mids received reinforcements in the form of the return of Knorr, Smith and Brown, and will enter conference play with a 4-9 record.

Amidst all of the losses and roster shuffling during the non-conference, DeChellis was able to uncover a solid small forward in freshman Shawn Anderson.

“Shawn Anderson has been very solid for us at the three spot. That’s been nice to see. All of the other freshman have had their moments where they pitched in, but he’s probably been the most consistent of the young guys who have had to play.”

Unfortunately, the injury bug has now hit Anderson, and he has missed several days due to a concussion.

And although DeChellis’ team continues to get knocked down by things out of his control, he remains positive.

“I don’t know where we’re at because the guys that played for us last year, we hoped would play substantial minutes for us this year, have not played,” said DeChellis. “But I like what we did last week, had everyone back against Towson, and able to win a game at home.”

It still remains to be seen what this year’s Navy team can really do at full, or close to full, strength. But after the slate of losing seasons and injuries, the only way to go for DeChellis and his team is up.

“I think we’ll become better as the conference season goes on, once those guys are back and more comfortable,” said DeChellis.