ANNAPOLIS -- Kevin Eastman, North Carolina-Wilmington's rookie coach, needed only one word to record his first impression of Navy's Eddie Reddick.
"Strong," Eastman said.
As a basketball player, particularly as a rebounder, Reddick is the epitome of the blue-collar worker. He's not that quick, not that tall and can barely leap over the Sunday paper.
"He posts up so well, so hard and so strong," Eastman said.
Eastman got his first look at Reddick in Navy's 100-97 victory over UNC-Wilmington last night before 1,558 in Halsey Field House. Reddick's performance was predictable -- 18 points to go with his team-high 10 rebounds.
The senior forward out of St. John's High in Washington has been Navy's rebounding leader almost from the day he first set foot on the academy grounds. He averaged 6.8 rebounds as a plebe, led the team in that category each of the next two seasons (8.0, 8.2), and leads again now with a 7.3.
Reddick stands 6-feet 6, weighs 215 and has thick legs. Nobody pushes him around. He looks the part of the hard-working rebounder, usually galloping down the court with his jersey out.
"Eddie has the will to get the ball," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "He has strength and timing, too, but mostly he really wants the ball."
Said Navy scoring leader Erik Harris, "Eddie isn't the quickest guy or the best leaper, but he's strong. He makes up for what he lacks with strength."
Harris, a senior point guard, and Reddick first played together in high school at St. John's.
"I know when he feels good and wants the ball," Harris said. "It's in his eyes. I can see it. And I know when he needs a lift or when he's a step behind. That's when I tell him, 'Eddie, the time is now!' "
Reddick is going to leave here with some decent numbers. With 1,148 career points, he is 41 away from passing Cliff Rees, No. 11 on Navy's all-time list. He needs 23 rebounds to move into fifth place there.
What's missing is a winning season. Reddick broke into the opening lineup in the sixth game of his freshman year and has started every game since except for two during his sophomore year when he was out with a sprained toe.
Yet Navy's record during this period is 28-68 -- three straight losing seasons and a 5-7 record now in the fourth. This is the aftermath of the era of David Robinson, who left in June of 1987. Reddick arrived a month later for plebe summer.
"David Robinson put Navy basketball on the map, but that was only a small part of the reason I came here," Reddick said. "I liked the military, the school itself, the basketball program and the nearness to home (Cheverly)."
Reddick has few regrets, but he does wince at the thought of departing without a winning campaign.
"If we don't, it will be very disappointing," Reddick said. "I'll look back and think what could have been. It'll leave a bitter taste. The teams had heart, but we should have had more wins. I try to let the younger guys know what it's like not to win for three years."
This time, he vows, it will be different. Last night's victory, he notes, was the Middies' fifth, matching their entire total last season.