HARTFORD, Conn. -- Despite getting an 88-52 first-round thumping by North Carolina in the NCAA tournament, Navy coach Don DeVoe was upbeat about the future of his basketball team.
Gone will be co-captains Hassan Booker and Michael Heary, the inside-outside duo that sparked the Midshipmen to two straight Patriot League titles, but it is the underclassmen who underline the coach's optimism.
"The way our season unfolded this year, we had some young players who stepped up and made me think we will be pretty solid next season," he said.
DeVoe was particularly pleased by the progress exhibited by sophomore forward Sitapha Savane and freshman guard Chris Williams. Savane provided rebounding muscle and post-up moves as a frontcourt reserve while Williams showed flashes of being an explosive scorer.
"We also had [junior guard] Skip Victor come into his own this year and [junior] Josh Williams continues to upgrade his game at center," DeVoe added. "We got to play [freshman] Reggie Skipworth at the point toward the end of this season, and I'm hoping he can step in and do the job next year."
Savane and rival North Carolina forward Makhtar Ndiaye, who both hail from Dakar, Senegal, had the game referees scratching their heads.
"We were talking to each other in our native tongue -- Wolof -- and the referees couldn't understand a word," Savane said with a laugh. "No, not trash-talking. Just about friends and family back home. I hadn't seen Makhtar since we tried out for the
national team last summer."
Heary said he was frustrated by the fact that the Mids shot only 27 percent against the Tar Heels, but not the fact that they lost.
"Losing to North Carolina, the top team in the country, is a lot easier to take than losing to Bucknell or Lehigh in the Patriot League," he said.
North Carolina has won at least one game in the NCAA tourney for a record 18 consecutive years. The Tar Heels are 73-51 overall, second only to Kentucky's 75 victories.
The 88-52 margin over Navy was the second biggest for the Tar Heels in NCAA competition. They beat Rhode Island by 45 in 1993.
State neighbors North Carolina and UNC-Charlotte will finally meet tomorrow.
"It almost happened when I was playing for UNC-Charlotte in the early '70s," said coach Melvin Watkins, who played guard for the 49ers. "We came close to playing them in the Final Four in 1977, but we lost in the semifinals. Maybe now that it's finally happening, maybe the state will shut down and watch the game."
UNC-Charlotte, in its 34th year, has scheduled a regular-season game with North Carolina in 1999.
"Maybe we can cancel that now," Watkins said, jokingly.
Pub Date: 3/13/98