It should come as no surprise that the Navy Academy basketball team again has one of the better defenses in the nation. Last years, the Midshipmen finished 12th in the country in defense and fifth in rebounding margin despite having no player taller than 6-foot-7.
The Midshipmen soared to a 13-11 record last season, their best mark in 15 years, and if coach Bob Hamilton's hustling team continues to punish opponents this year with their kamikaze-style man-to-man defense, they easily will establish another "best."
One reason Navy is off to its best start (7-4) in 15 years is the sparkling play of senior guard Bobby Scott. A walk-on as a plebe, the 6-2, 185-pounder suddenly has found a shooting eye to go along with his defensive skills.
"He's always been a good defensive player and usually covers the opponents' top scorer, providing he's not that big," the second-year coach said. "We told him to work on his shooting over the summer, and there's a definite improvement. Offensively, he's been a big plus."
Scott, from Chesapeake, Va., admitted he refrained from taking too many shots last year (six shots and 6.4 points per game) because he lacked confidence.
"Not this year. I'm looking for my shot now," Scott said. "I went 2-for-22 in my first two games, but I have done a little better since."
Since Scott discovered the basket didn't have a lid on it, he has raised his average to 9.5 points a game.
Two people who couldn't be happier to see some scoring from the outside are Kevin Sinnett and Hank Kuzma, Navy's leading scorers the past two seasons.
Many of Scott's baskets have as a result of teams collapsing inside on Sinnett and Kubma.
"I can sneak in for a lot of rebounds and follow-up shots when teams concentrate on boxing out Kevin and Hank. Besides, we're small and everyone has to help." Scott said.
"My defense has slipped a bit and I'm not getting the steals I should have, but I'm not going to concentrate on offense so much I forget about those things."
The aggressive Scott, a defensive end and tight end in high school, has bulled his way to eight rebounds per game while handing out a steal a total of 26 assists.
Navy has claimed victories over three, notables - Princeton (60-57), Old Dominion (72-66) and American (60-45). The Midshipmen also have won three games on foreign courts and two at neutral sites. Last year Navy lost all seven of its away games but won one at a neutral site.
Neither Hamilton nor Scott is surprised at the team's success away from the friendly confines of Halsey Field House.
"Please, yes, surprised, no" Hamilton said. "We have the talent and confidence to win away from home. That's the sign of a good team."
Scott attributed the success to a tightly knit group of experiences players.
"Hank and I have played together four years, and we have played with Kevin and Jack (Stumberg) for another three," Scott said. "We know each other pretty well."
Scott went out for football his first season at Annapolis, but he had a personality clash with one of the plebe football coaches and decided to take a shot at basketball.
"I still miss football, but now basketball is my first love," Scott said,. "Actually, I wanted to play both, buy I see there's no way I could have done that."