We live in the age of the pampered athlete. Marcus Jordan cost his school millions by insisting on wearing his dad's shoes. On Veteran's Day, let's salute the programs that still value discipline, unselfishness, and leadership in their hoops recruits.
Conference: Patriot League
Last Season: 11-19 (6-8)
Key Players: 6'3" Senior G Richard Cleveland (12.0 ppg, 2.3 apg), 5'11" Senior G Josh Miller (9.2 ppg, 3.2 apg).
Enlightening Paragraph: There is one glaring hole in the Army lineup. Funny Names. With the graduation of John Moonshower, we'll have to make due with Ross Trampler and Nathan Hedgecock on this year's roster. Seriously, though. Rebounding ain't happenin' at the USMA. The guards listed above as key players are the top returning scorers, dishers, and rebounders (3 per game apiece) on this year's team. Chris Walker and Trampler are the team's tallest returning players, but neither sniffed a double-digit rebounding day all last season. They'll be joined by 6'8" William Van Harp and 6'9" Joe Clark this season. Someone out of that group must know how to squeeze a rebound and make the outlet pass.
Conference: Mountain West
Last Year: 10-21 (0-16)
Key Players: 6'7" Senior F Parker Grant (6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg), 6'4" Sophomore G Evan Washington (6.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Enlightening Paragraph: The Falcons lose their top three scorers from a team that went 0-16 in the MWC last season. Jeff Bzdelik might not be setting the world on fire at Colorado, but he sure as hell figured out how to do more with less when he was in Colorado Springs, guiding the Falcons to 20+ wins and postseason appearances in his final two years there. Current head coach Jeff Reynolds has assembled an insanely long roster this season, so it looks like he's going to throw bodies at the problem until it - or he - goes away.
Last Season: 19-11 (8-6)
Key Players: 6'2" Senior G Chris Harris (15.4 ppg), 6'11 Junior C Mark Veazey (7.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg), 6'0" Junior G O.J. Avworo (5.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.6 apg).
Enlightening Paragraph: The Midshipmen have actually been quite good in recent memory. They just haven't been able to put it together in the Patriot tourney, which has been ruled by American, Holy Cross, and Bucknell this decade. One thing Navy has plenty of is size, with Veazey joined by two 6'10" teammates in Junior Jeremy Wilson and Freshman Pete Banos. 6'9" frosh Alex Newsome arrives this season as well, so the Middies should have the luxury of a potent half-court game.
Last Year: 20-13 (15-5)
Key Players: 6'1" Junior G Cameron Wells (15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), 6'2" Junior G Zach Urbanus (10.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.9 apg), 6'4" Junior G Austin Dahn (6.8 ppg), 6'4" Sophomore G Jon Brown (5.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg).
Enlightening Paragraph: The Citadel was the inspiration for Pat Conroy's pro-basketball, anti-authority thriller Lords of Discipline. The book earned him the enmity of his alma mater. But the school has accepted its past and moved on, hiring the novelist's cousin, Ed Conroy, to coach hoops at the school. Good move. Conroy was named So Con Coach of the Year in 2009 -- his third season at Citadel -- and is probably salivating at the power vacuum left by Steph Curry's move to the NBA. The Bulldogs have never been to the NCAA tournament. This could be their year.
Conference: Big South
Last Year: 24-8 (13-5)
Key Players: 5'11" Junior G Austin Kenon (16.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.4 apg), 6'2" Sophomore G Keith Gabriel (13.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg), 6'4" Sophomore G Ron Burks (4.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), 6'4" Sophomore G Michael Sparks (7.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg), 7'0" Sophomore C Stephen Sargent (2.2 ppg).
Enlightening Paragraph: I've made no secret of my love for VMI. They play an exciting, up-tempo style on offense and defense, and the bond between players and students is the closest I've ever seen. If Radford hadn't pulled Artsiom Parakhouski out of their butts in 2009, the Keydets probably would have been in the NCAAs. They took down Kentucky in their first game of the year and ran opponents (except Radford) out of the gym every night. The bad news is, the big Belaruski is still around. The good news is, these guys never quit, and they're incredibly fun to watch. I'm Eric Angevine, and I approve of this message.
To all of the kids who sacrifice the soft collegiate life in favor of rigorous mental and physical effort, a big Huffington Post salute!
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