Kevin Alter will never be the most famous resident of Rumson, N.J. That distinction belongs to rock superstar Bruce Springsteen. But no one would blame the Navy sophomore from breaking into a Springsteen song -- "I'm On Fire."
Making 12 of his last 23 shots from beyond the arc, Alter has forced his way into the rotation of the Midshipmen despite his diminutive size. At 5-foot-7 and 144 pounds, Alter bears little resemblance to a prototypical Division I basketball player. With his youthful peach-fuzz looks, and nickname to match, "Pookie" Alter could pass for a high school underclassman.
"It's funny, I look at game film and realize how small I am," Alter said. "But I have an advantage at the same time. I'm lower to the ground. Using that has helped me develop my game."
In Navy's 59-50 victory Sunday at Army, Alter came up huge, scoring 14 points while shooting 4 of 5 from beyond the arc as the Mids notched their first Patriot League win in two seasons. On Wednesday night, Navy (7-12, 1-2) looks for more of the same from Alter when it visits American (6-12, 1-2).
|Navy at American|
|When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.|
|Where » Bender Arena|
|TV » CSN|
"Now he's on the scouting report. But that's good for us," Navy coach Ed DeChellis said. "Hopefully we can stretch the defense and maybe allow some other guys to do some things."
In high school, fans chanted "hobbit" when Alter got the ball. In a state semifinal game at Malcolm X. Shabazz in rough-and-tumble Newark, coach Chris Champeau remembers Alter silencing them with a torrent of 3-pointers.
"By the end of the game, they were cheering him," Champeau said. "Everywhere we went, he got that, and that's what fueled him."
Shortly after taking over at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Alter's junior year, and realizing the heart and soul of the team was his then 5-5 point guard, Champeau nicknamed his team the "SQUAT unit."
"It meant small, quick and tough takes down big and strong every time," Champeau said. "Everything we had had S-Q-U-A-T on it, and that was because of Pookie. He was our identity."
Three years later, Alter finally is emerging at Navy. He came to Annapolis to play in the up-tempo, spread-it-out offense of Billy Lange. But finding playing time in the defense-first system of Lange's successor, DeChellis, has been difficult.
After sporadic work for a season and half, DeChellis turned to Alter as Navy was on its way to a blowout loss at Norfolk State on Jan. 5. With the Mids down by 23 points, Alter ignited a rally, scoring 18 points and dealing three assists in the final 10 minutes of a 74-68 loss.
Then Sunday, Alter helped deliver Navy its biggest win under DeChellis.
"Last year we played him at the point. That really wasn't his thing," DeChellis said. "He's a catch-and-shoot guy who plays hard with a lot of energy and enthusiasm."
According to DeChellis, Alter has a rare gift -- the ability to separate from defenders.
"He can start and stop very, very quickly. That allows him the space he needs to get his shot off," DeChellis said. "It's a hard thing to teach, separation speed, and he has it naturally."
It might be Alter's second most-important quality.
"He's a 5-7 wing guard," DeChellis said. "But he's got a huge heart."