Coach Pete Herrmann is not sure how good his Navy team will be this winter, but he is certain of one thing: "We're interesting."
The Midshipmen, though shy of size and speed, intend to play aggressively at both ends of the court. That means fast breaks and a full-court press, where Navy in the past was characterized by its attempts to slow the pace.
"We're going to make it very up tempo," Herrmann said. "We won't be real big or real quick, but we'll try to make up for it with constant pressure on the other team. We should be in great condition; the fatigue factor ought to affect some of the teams we play."
This is a pivotal year for Herrmann, who was 26-6 in David Robinson's senior season and has seen his last three teams stumble to records of 12-16, 6-22 and 5-23. Accordingly, a lot of his players don't know what it is to win and, with eight of the first nine games on the road, confidence could be a problem in the early going.
"We're going to be better," Herrmann said. "But we have a tough early slate and we have to convince ourselves we'll be better. It's a matter of, 'Can we adapt to the new style and defend?' Everyone has to contribute."
Point guard Erik Harris and forward Eddie Reddick, the St. John's High products who were 1-2 in scoring last season, figure to continue that role as seniors.
Juniors Sam Cook, 6 feet 8, and Nick Marusich, 6-9, will divide the center duty. Both gained valuable experience in a six-game summer tour of Yugoslavia with a Colonial Athletic Association all-star team, but Marusich's progress was slowed when he suffered a shoulder separation Nov. 5.
Sophomore Michael Burd has been impressive with his outside shooting and Herrmann is pleased with the contributions of enough other players to believe he has the depth for 40-minute pressure.
"We think we've got a hungry group of kids," he said. "We're going to play very aggressively and we think we have enough depth and enough heart to do that."
Although no players graduated from last year's team, two veterans, guard Joe Gottschalk and forward Doug Fee, elected to give up the sport after disappointing seasons.
"Fee's restructured knee gave him problems and physically he just wasn't able to continue," Herrmann said. "Gottschalk felt he had lost his competitive edge. We'll miss them, but I think we have replacements.
"We lost 12 very close games last year and our players have got to see that they're capable of turning that around. We won at Richmond and at Wilmington, so they know they're not that far away."
Navy dominated the CAA in Robinson's heyday, but it fell to 1-13 two years ago before improving marginally to 4-10 and sixth place. Herrmann would like to crack the first division before the Midshipmen shift to the Patriot League in 1991-92.
By that time, he expects big things from the trio of plebes who have moved onto the varsity roster. They include Pepper Day, a 6-7 forward from Seattle, and the respective leading scorer and most valuable player of last year's Naval Academy Preparatory School team, 6-8 forward Brad Cougher and 6-3 guard Victor Mickle.
"We can bring them along a little slower than the guys the last couple of years," Herrmann said. "Because of transfers and injuries, we were short of talent, but now we're better off. All three of them eventually will be pretty good players."