Franklin & Marshall center Charlie Detz is a quiet guy who often uses a smile or a nod in place of words. But when the subject turns to rival Lebanon Valley, winner of the Division III national title last season, Detz, a 6'8" preseason All-America, frowns, shakes his head and suddenly finds his voice. "I felt robbed when Lebanon Valley won," he says. "We beat them twice last year. It made me sick when they cut down the nets."
Franklin & Marshall's opponents may be the ones who feel queasy after the national tournament next March. Having been to the Sweet 16 eight times in the past nine years, the Diplomats have their best shot at a national title this season. Four players with at least two years of starting experience are back from a 26-2 team, including Detz and another preseason All-America, senior point guard Dave Jannetta. "When you have played together for so long, you can count on each other so much more," says Jannetta.
Last year F&M counted on Jannetta in a variety of ways. He led the Diplomats in assists and steals and was second in scoring, with a 16.3-point average. "Dave is the most competitive person I've ever met," says guard Mike Sievert, who is Jannetta's roommate. "He competes in everything—Ping-Pong, pool, you name it. He'll even go rock-paper-scissors to see who gets up to answer the phone."
Jannetta and Sievert stay late after every practice to shoot 25 extra foul shots each. Recently Jannetta went 25 for 25 and, not satisfied with perfection, continued shooting until he finally missed after making 87 in a row.
An all-state guard at The Lovett School in Atlanta, the 6-foot, 180-pound Jannetta attracted some Division I recruiters, but he decided he would be better off at a small program. "In Division I, I'd be on the bench for four years," he says. "I love basketball when I'm actually playing basketball."
Detz, on the other hand, wasn't so sure he wanted to play at all after stumbling through his freshman year. He was recruited out of tiny Columbia High, 15 miles from the F&M campus in Lancaster, Pa., primarily because he was tall. His basketball skills barely merited the trip to see him. "Chuck couldn't even catch the ball when he got here," says Sievert. "He has come light-years in four years."
Detz was so frustrated that he thought about quitting the team, but he has since gone through a transformation. He has added 45 pounds and, at 255, is now immovable in the paint. He also picked up a handful of inside moves under the tutelage of Glenn Robinson—no, not the Big Dog who starred at Purdue last year, but the coach of the Diplomats.
"There was a time when Charlie couldn't score if someone was guarding him," says Robinson. "He still has only three or four moves, but they're good ones he can score with. He does the job inside, where the real work is done."
Franklin & Marshall will have plenty of work to do when Lebanon Valley, located in Annville, 30 miles from Lancaster, visits on Jan. 30. But the Diplomats remain confident. "We were probably the best team in the country last year," Jannetta says. "And we're even better this year."
Detz just smiles and nods.