Tommy Funk (above) is nearing the end of a standout career at Army that's seen him emerge as one of the best point guards in America. (Photo courtesy Danny Wild/USA Today))
Andy Jasner (@AndyJasner)
When the subject surrounds senior guard Tommy Funk, Army head coach Jimmy Allen doesn’t mince words.
He simply gushes.
“He’s just a really driven, competitive kid,” Allen was saying. “He’s got the highest basketball IQ of any kid I’ve ever coached. He just picks up all the nuances we’re working on so quickly and he’s up and running so fast. He takes it all in and puts it together on the floor. He’s so smart and the progress has shown as a senior. He’s just a pleasure to coach in every way.”
Funk, a senior captain, has been a key anchor along with Matt Wilson all season for the Black Knights, who are 15-14 and 10-8 in the Patriot League.
Army will face Lafayette in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League tournament on Thursday. Funk has had a stellar season and obviously hopes that it culminates with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“That would be great, but honestly, for now, I’m trying to take a leadership role and do what I can to make us better every single day,” said Funk, an Archbishop Wood graduate. “It sounds cliché, but I look at it like this, ‘How can we improve and get better each day?’ If we do that, we’re doing it the right way. I’m not really thinking about the NCAA tournament. We have to go to practice and do what we need to do to improve.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep advancing and it will wind up with a postseason berth. If we don’t put in the work before that, it won’t matter.”
My, oh my, has Funk put in the work.
And the league sure took notice.
Funk was named First Team All-Patriot League, the first cadet to achieve this feat since Tanner Plomb after the 2015-16 season.
Funk shattered Army's single-season assists record for the third straight year and also set the Patriot League's career assists record. In addition, Funk scored in double figures in all but two games. Funk’s current 25-game scoring streak in double figures is the most since Army Hall of Famer Kevin Houston accomplished the task in 1986.
“I really worked on my game in the summer before coming back as a senior,” Funk said. “I really spent a lot of time working on all aspects of my game. I worked on conditioning, too. I think all that time paid off as I came back to school. I’m seeing results for sure.”
Funk has started in all 29 games while averaging a team-best 17.4 points, a league-best 6.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 45 percent from the field, including 35 percent from beyond the arc. Funk’s assists per game is the seventh-best in all of Division I.
Want more proof?
Funk has compiled four double-doubles and has eclipsed 20 points in a game eight times. How about two 30-point performances as well? That hasn’t happened at Army since Kyle Wilson was there in 2016.
Funk was named the Patriot League's Player of the Week four times and became the first cadet since Jarell Brown (2008) to receive player of the week honors from the league four times in the same year.
Funk was a high school teammate of Villanova’s Collin Gillespie and Funk’s parents met when they were college students on the Main Line. After a solid high school career, Funk mulled over his options. The decision was a bit arduous at first.
In the end, Funk chose Army. It became the perfect fit.
“I definitely think so,” Funk said of choosing Army. “It was a hard decision. I thought long and hard about it. I had a little frustration at first about what I wanted to do because I wasn’t really sure. The more I thought it, the more it became clearer. Now I can say it has been a great four years and it’s not over yet. I’ve met some great people who believed in me and helped make me the person I am today.”
On the court, he has developed into one of the finest players in the conference. There’s certainly no one more competitive than Funk.
“He’s as competitive a kid as I’ve ever been around and I see it every day,” Allen said. “He has incredibly high expectations for himself and will do everything he can to gain a competitive advantage. He will never quit on a play. He will never stop working., Whether it’s practice or a game, he just keep pushing and pushing and pushing. It’s incredible to see.”
Looking ahead, Funk is unsure where this season will wind up. Obviously, playing in the NCAA Tournament would be the ultimate destination.
Funk will also be graduating with a degree in business management and is scheduled to begin five years in field artillery with an 18-week training session expected to be in Oklahoma. That next phase of Funk’s life will be waiting.
For now, it’s about finishing strong.
“I just want to keep going out there and compete and win with my teammates,” Funk said. “It’s kind of how I’ve been my whole life. I always want to come out on top. I’ve been through so much with my teammates and want this to be completed in the right way. I’m not thinking about records or anything like that. I want to present and in the moment.”
All characteristics of a true leader.
“I’ve coached a lot of kids and I consider myself lucky to have coached Tommy for as long as I have,” Allen said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’ve been very lucky to be around him.”
The ride is far from over. The conference tournament awaits and you can bet that Funk will be ready to compete. That fact can’t be argued.