- Senior forward Chris Walker is one of seven seniors looking to break Army’s streak of losing seasons. (Army photo)
Going into this season everything looked on track to break Army’s streak of 15 straight losing seasons. Seven seniors and five juniors return to a team that has reached last year’s semifinals of the Patriot League Championship. Everything changed after the athletic department fired 7-year coach Jim Crews for unspecified reasons right before the season. The Times Herald Record has reported Crews was fired for physically abusing a player. Army hired Cornell assistant coach Zach Spiker to replace Crews and lead the veteran squad over that hump. Last year’s team’s hallmark was defense. That should continue to be a theme this year. Patriot League 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Nelson returns after posting an Army season record 32 blocks last year even though he stands 6-feet tall. He depends on posting up guards in the blocks, but word is he has spent a lot of time developing his jumper for his senior season. An underclassman who could break into the starting five is sophomore guard Julian Simmons, who started 12 games as a freshman. He averaged 7.4 points per game including a career-high 21 points against Bucknell in the season finale. If Simmons can boost his scoring average into the double digits, it will take some of the pressure off leading returning scorer Cleveland Richard. He averaged 12 points and 3 rebounds last year and shot .407 from behind the arc. Spiker will need plenty of production this year from his 6-3 senior swingman. Like the other service academies, Army is plagued with little height. Senior forward Chris Walker, 6-9, is the only player taller than 6-3 to log considerable minutes. Army will need 6-6 senior forward Eric Zastoupil or maybe 6-4 junior forward Jeremy Hence to help fill the paint with Walker. Predicted Finish: 16-12 MVP: Julian Simmons Bold Prediction: Coach Spiker pushes this team over the hump in a down year for the Patriot League. Army wins with defense and a breakout season for sophomore Julian Simmons. Break out the champagne boys, clear skies are here at last.