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Navy to host Maryland in 2018 Veterans Classic

Ohio State's Kam Williams comes up with the steal against Navy during the first half of the Veterans Classic at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016. Navy will host Maryland in this year's Veterans Classic in Annapolis.

KYLE ROBERTSON/COLUMBUS DISPATCH/TNS

By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: July 3, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service)  — College basketball observers may believe Maryland is rebuilding after losing two standout players to the professional ranks.

Navy head coach Ed DeChellis sees the Terrapins as simply reloading.

Maryland had two underclassmen declare for the NBA Draft and get selected last week with wing guard Kevin Huerter going in the first round (19th overall) to the Atlanta Hawks and forward Justin Jackson being taken in the second round (43rd overall) by the Denver Nuggets then subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic.

Losing a couple NBA-caliber players with eligibility remaining hurts, but Maryland still has plenty of talent on hand. Point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and power forward Bruno Fernando lead a list of three returning starters while McDonald’s All-American Jalen Smith (Mount St. Joseph) headlines a strong five-man recruiting class.

Navy officially announced on Monday it will host Maryland in the 2018 Veterans Classic on Friday, November 9 at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. It marks the first meeting between the schools since forward Len Bias led the Terrapins to a 64-59 victory over center David Robinson and the Midshipmen in the second round of the 1985 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

“It’s going to be a very tough task for Navy basketball. Maryland is a very talented team that is well-coached,” DeChellis said. “I think Maryland has several future pros on its roster. Their overall height, length and speed is very impressive.”

The Capital reported last October that Maryland and Navy would resume the in-state rivalry in the 2018 Veterans Classic. That 1985 matchup featuring two legends in Bias and Robinson marked the 58th meeting between the Terps and Mids. DeChellis thanked Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon for accepting an offer to appear in the fifth annual Veterans Classic.

“I’m really grateful to Mark Turgeon for agreeing to participate in this event. Mark thought this would be good opportunity for his team and felt the exposure to a service academy would be good for his players,” DeChellis said. “Mark gave up a home game in order to come to Annapolis and play Navy, which was something he certainly did not have to do.”

Navy will host Maryland in the (8:30 p.m.) nightcap of the doubleheader while Providence of the Big East Conference will take on Wichita State of the American Athletic Conference in the opener (6 p.m.).

Point guard Hasan Abdullah and power forward Evan Wieck are the lone returning starters for Navy, which went 20-12 last season – its highest win total since 2000. Backup forward George Kiernan, who ranked fourth on the team in scoring, is another key returning player.

“It’s the season opener and we’ll be a young team. George, Hasan and Evan are the most experienced players coming back so we’ll be counting on some young guys to step up,” DeChellis said.

Cowan averaged 15.7 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore last season while Fernando averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds while leading the team with 31 blocked shots as a freshman. Fernando dabbled with turning pro, but ultimately decided to return to College Park.

In addition to Smith, the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Maryland, the Terrapins bring in two other highly-touted recruits in guards Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to participate in the 2018 Veterans Classic,” Turgeon said in a statement.”This opportunity for our student-athletes to engage and visit with the midshipmen will be an invaluable experience. We are looking forward to expressing our sincere appreciation to the men and women of the United States Naval Academy for their service and all that they do to keep our country safe. Our university and men’s basketball program is excited to face Navy in a regular season game in Annapolis.”

DeChellis was equally excited about the other matchup between Providence and Wichita State, a pair of programs that routinely qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Friars and Shockers will be meeting for the first time since squaring off in consecutive seasons in 2004 and 2005.

Providence finished tied for third place in the Big East during the regular season then made a memorable run to the conference championship game against eventual national champion Villanova. Eighth-year head coach Ed Cooley has led the Friars to five straight seasons of at least 20 wins and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“We are excited and honored to be playing in the Veterans Classic,” Cooley said. “We are looking forward to bringing our student-athletes to the Naval Academy and experiencing all the tradition and history of this special place.”

Wichita State compiled an overall record of 25-8 and a 14-4 mark in its inaugural season as a member of the American Athletic Conference in 2017-2018. Head coach Gregg Marshall has led the Shockers into the NCAA Tournament for seven straight seasons, a span that includes a 2013 appearance in the Final Four.

“Competing in the Veterans Classic is both an honor and an opportunity,” said Marshall, who is entering his 13th season at Wichita State. “Our guys are looking forward to the challenge of facing a high-caliber opponent in Providence while spending time with some high-caliber people at the U.S. Naval Academy, an institution world-famous for its character and leadership development.”

Wichita State adopted Navy as its football team when joining the American Athletic Conference. That connection helped start talks between the schools about the Shockers participating in the Veterans Classic.

DeChellis said CBS Sports Network helped broker the addition of Providence, which becomes the second Big East Conference school to appear in the Veterans Classic after Marquette in 2016.

“The Veterans Classic is truly one of the best early season events in the country,” said Dechellis, who is embarking on his eighth year at Navy. “We have once again been able to assemble an outstanding field of teams in Maryland, Providence and Wichita State, all of which play at the highest level of competition. It is also great to use this opportunity to again pay tribute to our nation's veterans.”

©2018 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)
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