U.S. Naval Academy senior Rich Bassi knows firsthand the virtues of patience.
The former Annapolis High School standout and academy math major has worked his way through the soccer ranks -- from the Naval Academy Prep School, the academy's junior varsity team, a "practiceplayer" for the varsity, up to his present role as starting center halfback for the 7-4 Midshipmen.
"I guess patience is the word you can use. I didn't say too much about the situation, but actually, it was kind of frustrating," said Bassi, an All-County selection for the Panthers during his senior season in 1986.
"Especially last year, when I finally made the varsity, but I wasn't getting any playing time. But since the middle of last year, everything has been working out just great."
Bassi startedduring his year at the Newport, R.I., prep school, but suffered an ankle injury during the middle of the season, keeping him out of the majority of games.
The plebe/junior varsity team in which he spent his first year at the academy was dropped after the fall 1988 season.That left the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder to spend his entire sophomore year honing his skills against the varsity as a member of the non-traveling team.
"When he first came here to the academy, he had been astar in high school, but he quickly found that the players here werealso stars as well, and most of them were faster, and they already had more skills," said Midshipmen coach Greg Meyers. "I'd say it took him about two years for him to quicken his footwork and ball-skills.
"But he finally got his chance midway through his junior year against George Mason (Va.) University (a 1-0 loss), and he did so well, that he started the last eight games of the season, and I didn't take him out once, not even for overtime."
Bassi said, "I had played inone or two other games, like one against Richmond when we were losing, 4-0. Coach put everyone out there with like five minutes left in the game, but the George Mason game was the one where I started getting quality playing time."
Despite the Midshipmen's mediocre 9-10-2 finish, Bassi had done well enough to be elected captain for the 1991season.
"Throughout my years of coaching, I have never seen anything like that," said Meyers. "Usually, the players elect someone who's been there for two or three years, but by the end of the year, theyhad so much respect for him, they decided to make him captain.
"He's just a great player and a great kid. He's just one of those kids you'd want your kids to be like."
Annapolis High coach David Gehrdes, who started Bassi for three years, echoed Meyers' thoughts about the 22-year-old.
"Although Rich was a good athlete, he didn't havethe greatest speed, but he always seemed to be at the right place atthe right time," said Gehrdes. "He's always been an outstanding young man -- a leader in school and a solid soccer player."
In addition to soccer, Bassi excelled in other sports at Annapolis, winning varsity letters in indoor track and tennis, where he teamed with mixed doubles partner Liz Corey (1987) to win a silver medal in the county tournament and a bronze in the regional tourney.
Bassi, the son of former academy football player and retired Cmdr. Phillip Bassi, says his finest hour in a Navy uniform came in a late September game against Liberty (Va.) University.
The Athens, Ga., native broke open a 2-2 second-half deadlock with his first and only career goal, a left-footed volley from within 18 yards, off an assist from teammate JerryDearie. The Mids would go on to win the game, 4-2.
"I just hope that we continue to keep playing well this season," said Bassi, who hopes to attend flight school after graduation and one day become a high school soccer coach.
"This (season) is like the icing on the cake this year. It's been so much fun. There are so many great guys on the team. It's just so much fun, and if we keep winning it'll make it that much better."