The Mount Vernon Majors' 13-0 start should be no surprise to anyone. The Majors have won 199 games in the last 10 years, including four Gunston District titles, two Northern Region crowns and a state championship in 1979. So, although seven players graduated from last season's 18-7 squad, almost nobody is surprised by this year's fast start. Nobody but the Majors themselves.

"No, I didn't expect it. I don't think anyone ever does," said Mount Vernon Coach Don McCool. "Obviously you don't just win 13 games, you've got to have a lot of luck with you. We haven't been blowing people out."

But on the strength of their traditional scrambling, pressure defense and a balanced scoring attack, the Majors won their opener against an improved West Springfield team and have rolled to 12 more wins. Included in the streak was a championship in their own Christmas tournament after five straight years of second-place holiday finishes.

The end of the Christmas jinx seemed to propel the Majors to more success.

"It {winning early in the season} helps your confidence," said McCool. "Once you get the winning attitude, it makes you very tough to beat."

The Majors have been very tough to beat since McCool took over at Mount Vernon ten years ago. After enjoying tremendous success at West Springfield {including three consecutive regional championships, 1971-74}, McCool came to Mount Vernon in 1978-79 and had compiled a record of 199-38 before Tuesday's game against Lake Braddock. Mount Vernon has not lost more than seven games in a single season since McCool introduced his basketball philosophy stressing a relentless man-to-man defense.

"It's the way I came up on basketball, my philosophy as a young player. I always believed that {pressing} was the only way to catch up," McCool said. "I always thought, 'why wait until you're behind? Why not do it all the time?'"

Few of McCool's teams have enjoyed the luxury of height, and this team is no exception. The starting lineup averages under six feet tall, yet the Majors continue to overwhelm opponents with their defense and explosive transition scoring.

"We press the whole game and rely on turnovers," said McCool. "We know we're not a good rebounding team so we try to make it up with the pressure. Even if I had size I would still do it."

"They play tremendous defense," said Langley Coach Joey Hite, whose Saxons were 75-48 victims early this year. "They might play you two feet off and the next thing you know they're nine inches away from you. They're so quick with their hands and feet, they either deflect the ball or steal it. Don McCool is an excellent coach when it comes to defense."

And though the faces change, the approach is always the same.

"They're never going to change," West Potomac Coach Bill Engels said. "He's using a match-up zone a little which is a twist. But they still pick you up when you get off the bus and don't let go until you're back on it."

Senior point guard Barry Smith runs the floor show, leading the Majors in assists while averaging 12.6 points per game. An excellent ball handler and passer, it is Smith who usually has the ball in the middle of the fast break. "He's very good in the open floor," McCool said. "He's your typical point guard and has all the attributes you look for at that position."

Lorenzo Bryant, a 6-1 sophomore, leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game. A very creative offensive player, Bryant is also the Majors' "shutdown man" -- the player McCool calls on to defense the opposition's best scorer.

David Taylor (13 points per game) is introduced as the Majors' center, but at only 6-foot-4 and in their transition style game he rarely plays as a traditional low-post player.

"He plays center but he's really a small forward. He's an excellent jump shooter and has versatility. If the other team has a big center he can run the floor with him and wear him out."

Richie Treger and Norrin Braxton round out the starting five and each fill a particular role in the Majors scheme. Treger (10.6 points per game) is the best three-point shooter and an excellent free throw shooter.

Braxton, a high-jumper on the track team, is "the mainstay of our interior defense," according to McCool, and is averaging eight points per game.

Though the Majors are not deep, guards Curt Robinson and Greg Beal see time in the backcourt and Junior Richardson provides inside relief.

However, some opposing coaches still prefer to mention Mount Vernon's past problems rather than praise their recent success.

In the 1982-83 season, the Majors were 20-3 but barred from post-season play for violations concerning players crossing school district lines to attend Mount Vernon. These "recruiting" violations cast a shadow over the Majors' program and continue to be targets for present day criticism.

But McCool remains undaunted by the outside skepticism.

"The people that know you know the truth. The other guys only believe what they want to believe and hear what they want to hear," said McCool. "When you win an awful lot of games you have people taking shots at you. That's just the nature of the business."