Archbishop Wood product Tommy Funk (above) was thrown right into the fire as a freshman at UMSA. (Photo courtesy Army Athletics).
Graham Foley (@graham_foley3)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season,click here.)
It’s safe to say that Army sophomore Tommy Funk had one of the most difficult college debuts last year.
The Archbishop Wood product was thrown into the fire as the Black Knights’ starting point guard in their opening game against No. 5 Oregon, a team that finished in the Final Four with a nail biting loss to national champion North Carolina.
The game was played 2,466 miles away from West Point in front of a sell-out crowd of 12,364 at Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena. Army’s Christl Arena holds a maximum of 5,034 fans.
At six feet tall, Funk was the shortest player on the court and faced off against an Oregon starting lineup that included three seniors who are currently playing in the NBA.
It was a daunting task. But Funk held his own.
He played 33 minutes and finished with seven points and five assists in Army’s 91-77 loss.
“It was pretty surreal,” Funk said. “It was a little nerve-racking before the game but once it got started, it was just a lot of fun. And I was ready to go because it made me think if I could play in that atmosphere it made me a lot more comfortable for the rest of the season.”
The game set the tone for a gritty, impressive freshman season in which he was one of only two Army players to start all 32 games.
Now, as a sophomore, Funk is looking to build on the successes of last season and become an intrical part of a young team looking to take its next step forward. Army, whose 26-man roster included just four upperclassmen last season, finished 13-19 overall with a 6-12 record in the Patriot League.
“I thought it was a good first year,” Funk said. “I was able to do my job as a point guard, getting people shorts and getting them involved. There are definitely a lot of improvements we can make as team so that’s what’s we’re going to work on this year.”
Funk became a captain at Archbishop Wood before the 2014-15 season as a junior. In his final two years at Wood, he led the team to a combined 32-16 record overall and 15-13 record in the Philadelphia Catholic League.
In his senior year, Funk averaged 14.5 ppg. He dropped 29 points in a 76-72 loss to Conwell-Egan on Jan. 15, 2016 and 21 in a 64-42 Catholic League playoff victory over Father Judge on Feb. 11, 2016.
Jimmy Allen, who served as the associate head coach for Army in the 2015-16 season before officially becoming head coach last season, said it was not a hard decision to give Funk a starting role right away.
“Tommy comes from a great program at Wood and had really helped them turn some things around and do some things they hadn’t done prior to him being there,” Allen said. “I think a lot of that carried over to our program.
“He’s a tough kid, he’s a confident kid, and he’s a terrific competitor,” he added. “From the day he got here, he showed all of us those qualities and was very consistent for us throughout the preseason.”
Funk averaged 9.1 ppg last season with a .346 field goal percentage and .299 3-point field goal percentage. He totaled 292 points on the season. He finished second on the team in minutes played with 951 and second in free throws made with 61.
His 24 steals were fourth-best on the team and 101 field goal were third. His 4.8 assists per game was ranked second in Patriot League, while his 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio was sixth.
Funk scored a season-high 16 points against Boston University on Jan. 25, 2017 and finished with a season-high 12 assists on Jan. 18, 2017 against Holy Cross.
“He’s able to see all of the guys on the court,” Allen said. “I think he has a great feel for making the right read, finding the right guy, really picking the defense apart, and putting the ball in the right spot for guys.”
Allen said there is a lot of responsibility that comes with playing the point guard position in college. Leading the team as a freshman was not easy, Funk said, but it is something he plans to improve upon this season.
“That’s something the coaches and the other guys on the team helped me with,” Funk said. “They’d say, ‘Listen, you’re our point guard, I don’t care how old you are, you have to be our leader’ so that’s something I’m working towards this year, trying to take that role.”
It was a role in which Funk excelled at Archbishop Wood. While the transition to college-level basketball is difficult, Allen said Funk’s experience as a leader made him stand out from the start.
“At a place like West Point, where leadership is such a big deal, as a freshman, you’re not necessarily a leader off the floor in the barracks,” Allen said. “But when he stepped on the court as a point guard, Tommy was able to put all that stuff aside and be a really good leader.
“He’s accepting of that role, excited about that role, and he’s continued to get better this year.”
To improve upon his game and his leadership abilities, Funk said he trained hard over the offseason, focusing on his jump-shot, finishing plays and his strength. Allen said Funk was already “performing at a pretty high level”, so the focus was to “elevate his game in a number of areas.”
Part of that training included coming back to Archbishop Wood to play with the Vikings, whether currently on the team or graduated.
Funk said he trained with Villanova freshman point guard Collin Gillespie, Moravian College freshman guard Keith Otto and Lock Haven freshman guard Matt Cerutti. All three graduated from Archbishop Wood in 2017 and led Wood as seniors to its first ever Catholic League title.
He said he also trained with several current Wood players including his brother, Andrew Funk, a senior guard and Bucknell commit.
“When I was home during the summer, I was there all the time working with my brother in the mornings and playing pickup with the rest of the team,” Funk said. “That’s good because there’s a lot of good players there so it’s not like there a drop in play.”
The following two years should feature some fun Patriot League matchups between the two brothers. This season, Funk said he will be “keeping his tabs” on his brother and the entire Archbishop Wood team.
For his own team, Funk believes there is a lot to be excited about. The Black Knights finished the season by winning four of their last six games, including a road win over rival Navy. And with another year under the belts of the young lineup, inexperience should be less of an issue.
“Our expectations are definitely pretty high because our record may not have been that great in conference play but we were leading or in every single game that we played,” Funk said. “We’re bringing a lot of guys back that will understand what it takes to win those games when they’re close, so we’re looking forward to coming out on the other side of those games, getting victories, putting ourselves in a good spot.”