The Capital

So good, it’s Heary

Freshman guard already a leader for Navy

Michael Heary was never good at playing follow the leader. Not unless he was the leader. The thought of following just wasn’t his nature. It still isn’t.Therefore it is quite apparent that the Naval Academy is the right place for Heary. Despite his excellence on the basketball court, which might well have turned him toward a more high-powered program, Navy seems to be the more natural school for him.

Heary is a leader, not a follower. If he simply followed the course some expected him to take, he would certainly be at some other college. But the 18-year-old freshman chose the direction that suited him best. He decided to abide by his instincts and attend a leadership institution.

And just six months into his collegiate basketball career, Heary is already leading.

While he doesn’t see himself as one of the team leaders—he feels there are upperclassmen who are much better qualified for that—he is the basketball team’s leading scorer with a 14-point per game average.

And carrying that role one step up, Heary is leading the entire nation in free throw shooting with a lofty .929 percentage that comes from converting 65 of his 70 attempts from the line.

Heary, who is on track to become Navy’s highest scoring freshman ever, proves over and over that he is the consummate leader by downplaying the credit already being heaped upon him and deflecting it toward his Navy teammates. He even did that after scoring a career high 31 points in Navy’s battle with Army.

Heary went so far as to say that he feels more comfortable coming off the bench if only because it gives the upperclassmen the opportunity to be the starters.

“Wes Cooper is a great model for me,” Heary said of Navy’s senior team captain. “I can’t say enough about the leadership of the seniors and particularly Wes. He leads by example. All you have to do is look to him and you’ll be ready to play.”

The humility demonstrated by the 6-foot-5 guard from Fredonia, N.Y. is surprising for someone coming to college with the reputation of a high school phenom. But Heary continues to show that he is full of very pleasant surprises.

One surprise is the maturity of the young man. Unfortunately, some of that came as the result of the illness and death last year of his father. That sobering experience, plus the advice of his three older sisters who attended Notre Dame who prompted him to seek out reputable schools that were known for more than just basketball. So it was that Navy won out over the other schools that sought the sharpshooter who was named to the All-New York State team and had his Fredonia High School number retired.

Many coaches were surprised that he came to the Naval Academy because his father had been a standout player at Canisius and his brother-in-law is currently an assistant coach at the Buffalo school. Because of his connections with Canisius, few major college coaches even took the time to recruit him, despite the fact that he scored 2,235 points in his high school career, including 62 in one game.

“The book on Mike was that you could recruit him all you want, but he’s gonna go to Canisius,” DeVoe pointed out. “That’s the way coaches think. But Emmett (Davis) did a great job of staying with Mike and convincing him that Navy was the right place for him.”

When Heary chose not to follow the anticipated path and come to Navy a lot of college coaches regretted their lack of interest.

“I came here because I’m not really concerned about playing in the NBA or anywhere else professionally,” Heary said. “What I’ve done by coming here is to get a career in the Navy if I want that.”

“I came to Navy because of guys like David Robinson and Army’s Kevin Houston. I’d like to help get the Army-Navy rivalry back to the way it was when they were playing,” the almost always smiling Heary said.

DeVoe is quick to credit his assistants, in this case Emmett Davis, for the recruiting successes because he knows that only special young me can even be targeted by the Naval Academy.

“The players know what they’re in for when they come here. We don’t paint a picture of sea shells and balloons. They know there is a lot they have to learn. They know they’re accepting a challenge, DeVoe related. “When they come here they have to believe in the Academy.

“It isn’t just basketball here. These guys know that when they walk out of a building after a game, they have a lot of other responsibilities,” DeVoe noted.

Then again, Heary himself seemed to realize all that. He has accepted every challenge. And responded positively to each.

“Mike seems to be doing well here at the Academy,” DeVoe said. He’s able to keep everything in perspective.

“As far as basketball goes, he’s got a lot of tools and he’s developing more every day. As good as he’s been, I don’t believe that he’s near where he’s going to be and another few weeks, another year,”DeVoe assessed. “He’s got a lot of potential and he appears to be very comfortable out on the floor.”

While Heary is known for his perimeter shooting and his accuracy from the foul line, DeVoe is quick to point out that his prize freshman is already expanding his game.

“To be able to play here, to make our program move, our guys have to become multi-dimensional players. Obviously Mike shoots well from the outside and he’s great from the free throw line, but he also puts the ball on the floor and takes the ball to the basket as well as anyone I’ve seen here,“ DeVoe said.

“He has what we call a middle game. He takes the ball into the paint from all angles and he creates a lot of opportunities,” DeVoe continued. “He’s worked real hard on that part of his game. He’s also very unselfish.”

Heary’s mother Rita has moved to Annapolis so she can be Mike’s No. 1 cheerleader. Because of her son’s accomplishments, not to mention the hustle and intensity he’s brought to the team, Mrs. Heary already has quite a following behind her. And as long as Heary lives up to DeVoe’s expectations, his cheerleading mom will lead a lot of followers.

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