WEST POINT - Despite nine freshmen in the program, the 2012-13 Army men’s basketball team can finally be categorized as "veteran." The Black Knights welcome back five of the six players that averaged at least 5.0 points per game last season.
"This will be the first time that we return any players that will have a total understanding of what their role is going to be for the upcoming season," fourth-year head coach Zach Spiker said. "Two years ago, we brought back Mitch McDonald, a senior, and Jason Pancoe, a sophomore, but neither one of them had really played true point guard minutes. That’s all they did that year. The following year, Jeremy Hence had never been a go-to option on offense, but he ended up being our leading scorer. Last year, Ella (Ellis) was new in his role as being the focus of the other team’s defense. This year, Ella will again be the focus. That’s the first time we’ve had that."
Headlining the list of returning players is Ellis, a senior forward. Ellis earned first-team All-Patriot League honors last season when he scored 17.5 points per game and was the first Black Knight to score 500 points, grab 130 rebounds and hand out 50 assists in the same season since Army Sports Hall of Fame inductee Randy Cozzens in 1984-85.
"Ella still has a lot of good basketball ahead of him," Spiker said. "He worked very hard this summer and fall to develop parts of his game that were not as strong, and he made his strengths even stronger. He’s embraced the opportunity to be the best player on our team."
Another record book interloper returns to the lineup in junior guard Josh Herbeck. The sharpshooter from Ann Arbor, Mich., has made 113 three-pointers in his career, ninth-most in program history. He hit 75 triples in 2011-12 and led the Patriot League with 40 three-pointers during conference play.
Sophomore point guard Maxwell Lenox will try to build on his plebe effort that put him on the Patriot League All-Rookie Team. Lenox was one of only two Army freshmen to play in all 30 games and led the team in assists (96) and steals (38).
"We have some versatility this year that we haven’t had in years past," Spiker said. "We can go with the lineup of 6-10 Kyle Ferguson at center, 6-6 Larry Toomey or 6-7 Tanner Plomb at power forward and Ella, who is 6-6, at the small forward position. We can go with some size, or we can play Maxwell, Dylan, Matt Gramling and Herbeck, and see who wants to chase us around. This team presents us with some options."
Army opens the season against rival Air Force at the Army ROTC All-Military Classic on November 10th.