"Quite simply, I want our team to play hard, play smart, and play together. If we can do this on an everyday basis, we will become the best team we can be." Second-year Head Coach Bill Lange wanted this of his team prior to the 1999-2000 season, and after a successful run last year, Coach Lange is reiterating this sentiment with expectations that it will carry over to the new campaign. The Mariners wrapped things up last March with their fifth consecutive winning season, recording a 17-11 ledger and advancing to post-season play for the fifth consecutive year. Kings Point, picked to finish fourth in the Skyline Conference in the preseason rankings, defied the poll makers and captured their third straight regular season title with a 13-4 mark. In the Conference Tournament, Kings Point fell in overtime to Mt. St. Mary, 79-76, in the finals. With the loss, the Blue and Gray's hopes of an NCAA appearance were dashed as the automatic bid was awarded to the Blue Knights. The Mariners moved into the ECAC Metro NY/NJ Championship Tournament and fell in the opening round on the road at Montclair State, 72-55.
Johnny Garrett is back to lead the Mariners in 2000.
The Blue and Gray will face the same type of odds this season. Kings Point is picked to finish third in the Conference this season and only time will tell if this young group of midshipman-athletes can make liars out of the poll makers once again. Coach Lange has preached one word to his team as they embark on the season's journey...focus. The coaching staff and players have a vision and they must stay committed to it. Last season the team fell short of their goals of a Skyline Title and NCAA appearance. In the time since then, this has turned into an insatiable hunger to improve upon last year's shortcomings.
The Mariners will have new personnel on the bench as they begin the 2000 season. Coach Lange will have two new assistants at his side in Joe Conefry and Chris Carideo. Both Conefry and Carideo come to the United States Merchant Marine Academy with numerous accolades and achievements under their belts. Conefry joins the Mariners' staff after serving as an Assistant Coach at Division I Hofstra and Carideo ended his playing career holding five NCAA Division III records at Widener. "Even though the coaches are new to the Academy setting, I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a positive staff that complements the style of basketball that we want to play," noted Coach Lange.
The road to the NCAA's will hardly be straight and paved, but Lange and company are extremely eager to regain their throne atop the Skyline Conference. The Blue and Gray will play forty minutes of intense hustle and will look to create a war of attrition on the court. The team will seek to run an up-tempo offense, scoring points quickly and outworking opposing defenses on the opposite end of the floor.
The Mariners begin the season hosting the Kings Point Tip-Off Invitational on Nov. 18. From there, the midshipmen must commit themselves to a high level of play and demonstrate an excellence of execution. The 2000 campaign will be one of the most aggressive schedules that Kings Point has ever had. Every out-of-conference opponent finished third or better in their league a year ago, so it can be assured that the Mariners will have no easy nights. The Skyline Conference has elevated itself remarkably over the past few years and is better than ever before. Manhattanville, Mt. St. Mary and Yeshiva will all battle with the Academy for supremacy in the Conference. The year's first Conference contest, against Mt. St. Vincent, is sandwiched between the opening tournament at Kings Point and the Lopata Classic hosted by Washington University in St. Louis. The Mariners will then be faced with a plethora of Skyline Conference games and non-conference matches. A battle versus Rowan on Feb. 3 at the Palestra in Philadelphia will be a good indicator of the team's ability on a national level as the Blue and Gray progress into the latter stages of the season. Rowan is ranked eighth in the nation in the preseason polls. Kings Point will close out regular season play against four Skyline foes. The season will reach its pinnacle during the Skyline Conference Tournament, with an automatic berth to the elusive NCAA tournament on the line.
With the "team over I" philosophy firmly in place, Kings Point will be a squad that features numerous players and will generate a well-balanced and potent attack. The system is designed to create a well- balanced machine for the hardwood, a team that exploits its players strengths and disguises their weaknesses. It's also the type of system that will allow the coaching staff to play the five best players at one time, not necessarily two guards, two forwards, and a center.
The Mariners will be led by returning guard Johnny Garrett (Missouri City, TX). Garrett, named last year's Skyline Conference Player of the Year, Skyline Conference First-Team All-Star and Division III Honorable-Mention All-America, wowed crowds with his amazing athleticism and ability to penetrate through opposing defenses. He led Kings Point in scoring, rebounding and steals last year with 16.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Coach Lange states that Garrett is "the best one-on-one defender that I've ever worked with. I expect Johnny to take his aggressiveness on the court to a high level."
Also returning for the Blue and Gray will be junior co-captains Nate Barton (Hummelstown, PA) and Kevin Bernick (Toms River, NJ). Barton is a constant three-point threat from the point and last season was named to the Skyline Conference Second-Team All-Star. He earned Conference accolades after finishing the season ranked first in the Skyline in free throw percentage (83.7) third in assists (6.0 apg) and 10th in scoring (12.3 ppg). As the 2000 season approaches, Barton will look to become extremely effective on defense as well as continuing to dominate from the outside. His defensive readiness in the game's non-statistical areas will be vital to the Mariners success. Bernick returns for Kings Point to take command of the perimeter corps after averaging 9.9 points per game last season. "Kevin Bernick has physically and mentally improved his game to a higher degree than any other player I've been around," said Coach Lange. Bernick and Barton will be hard-pressed to improve upon their success rate from behind the arc, but their smooth stroke and lethal accuracy will naturally stretch opposing defenses.
Kevin Kreutz (Glendale, AZ), Jason Bernick (Toms River, NJ), and Kevin Corrigan (Miller Place, NY) return for their second stint at Kings Point and will also play pivotal roles at the guard positions in the upcoming year. Labeled with the reputation of being a fundamentally sound player, Kreutz is a natural scorer who will provide the team with an offensive spark and give the coaching staff another option. Kreutz started 22 games last year because of his tremendous work ethic and enthusiasm. This season, Kreutz brings a year's worth of valuable experience to the team along with his natural gifts. Jason Bernick developed last year into Kings Point's tough guy. He's an intense package of dynamite with the ability to find the basket on any occasion. Corrigan was a walk-on player last year, who stood the test of a difficult tryout period. He worked hard in the offseason and has elevated his game accordingly.
The Mariners will also unveil an untested group of exciting and explosive perimeter players when the season begins in mid-November. Mark Medvetz (Medford, NJ), James Young (Ft. Washington, MD), Vince Rogers (Bad Axe, MI), and Zishaan Raymond (Jenkintown, PA) were all great perimeter players at the high school level and will add a substantial amount of depth to the team. Medvetz has quickness and size and is expected to develop into a dynamic inside-outside player. Young's 50-inch vertical leaping ability speaks for itself. The speedster also has good vision and can slash defenses with an explosive first step. Rogers is a player with great touch whose size allows him to be more versatile down low. His 18 point per game average in high school demonstrates confidence in his game. Raymond also exudes confidence and is a tremendous finisher as evidenced by his 19.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game as a senior in high school last year. Brendan Smith (Smithtown, NY) is another player that will add depth to the perimeter. Smith is a solid contributor who sees the floor exceptionally well.
In the frontcourt, the Mariners will have a tough time replacing All-Conference center Mike Hyland, but the team is quick and strong up front. Kings Point will play with a lack of collegiate experience down low, but have the athletic ability to compensate. Sophomore Seth Cobb (Powder Springs, GA) returns to lead the contingent of forwards. Cobb has great discipline and played in every game last season, shooting 53.8 percent from the floor. The rest of the frontcourt will be dominated by new faces, as freshmen Gabe Whitney (Nashua, NH), Joe Spano (Warren, OH), Ryan Melogy (Fernandia Beach, FL), and Fred Slanovec (Slate Hill, NY) all prepare for an eventful year. Whitney brings his sizable frame (6'7", 250 lbs.) down low where he hopes to punish opposing teams with his strength. Spano was a co-player of the year as a senior in high school, and like many members of this team, he is blessed with the gift of versatility. Melogy is a great example of a player that plays above his size. He can be a ferocious rebounder who loves to attack the basket. Slanovec is another defensive terror that recorded a phenomenal 21 rebounds per game in high school. The 6'7" New York native will be expected to dominate underneath with technique and strength.
Kings Point's guards are explosive off the ball and are good at switching the point of attack. The Mariners love to push the pace and can damage opponents on the perimeter or through penetration. Down low the Blue and Gray also stack up fairly well. All the team's big men have great speed and will rely on a quick transition game to score points. Defensively, the Mariners are extremely solid. The Mariners return four starters from a team that led the nation in three-point field goal defense (27 percent) last year and stopping opponents will again be a focus of this year's squad. The coaching staff will look to substitute frequently, utilizing their entire 16- man roster, including nine freshmen. Coach Lange's exciting brand of basketball is conducive to high energy and will lead to reinforce the tradition that is Kings Point basketball. The 2000-01 Mariners have the ingredients to become as Skyline Champions once again and this group of talented midshipman-athletes is poised to make a successful run through the NCAA's. The only question that remains is how far this mighty group of Kings Pointers can go?