"I was a kid with a big dream," the kid with a bigger smile was saying. He is a Midshipman named Douglas Wojcik, and the pompous playground directors who run the NCAA ought to be scurrying here to hug him.
He justified their existence today.
Wojcik is one of those student-athletes about whom the NCAA preaches but seldom gets to reward. Until a whiff of wonderment such as today's takes place and a basketball factory reject blows up one of the plants.
No one is quite sure how it came to pass that a 6-foot-1, 176-pound kid who seems better suited for tiddlywinks happened to embarrass an LSU team that looks as though it could strut into the NBA en masse.
Perhaps the hoop gods also get angry with superior players sleepwalking to victory over undermanned teams all the time and decided Wojcik would be a neat synonym for magic.
Before he scored four times as many points as usual and had eight assists, the only special team Wojcik might have made was All-Pluck.
Had someone told the slender sophomore guard that he would score 18 points and think Navy to a 23-point victory over a top-20 team in the NCAA tournament, Wojcik would have laughed.
Even big dreamers make room in their minds for reality. And five months ago, even the modest program at Navy seemed beyond Wojcik's reach.
"He came up to me before the season and asked if he had a chance to make the team," Coach Paul Evans admitted. "He said the assistants weren't even speaking to him."
"The assistant who recruited me was gone, and I was unsure about what was going on. I'd work hard, but I wanted to know where I stood."
He had played on a junior varsity team unbeaten in 15 games, but the best Navy publicists could say was that he had a "chance" for playing time at the point.
The tub they thumped for Wojcik was a wee one.
To casual fans about the country, Navy was an agile giant surrounded by a half-dozen Wojciks. David Robinson, at 6-11, earned his points; the other guys prayed for theirs.
More knowledgeable observers had a different idea. To them, Navy was smart enough to win and LSU dumb enough to lose. The Post's resident oracle, John Feinstein, forecast the upset about three seconds after the matchup was announced.
Both teams were true to their reputations today. Wojcik could pass for the LSU ballboy, but he passed through every imposing body supposed to check him.
Five minutes into the game, Navy knew it could win; the ranked team was rank. Once linked with Guy Lewis and some others among coaching no-minds, Dale Brown flew off into singular orbit today.
"We knew (shortly into the game) that they were great athletes," Wojcik said, "but that we could play with 'em. There wasn't much movement.
"I knew that because they were such bettter athletes that they'd try and dominate me with the ball. I expected them to do that, and they did. But they could have done more."
He described a pet play that LSU never bothered to defense, or couldn't: "The lob to David was there every time. They weren't too smart."
Neither was Maryland in the second game, choosing to stall much of the second half with better players than Miami of Ohio.
But a Wojcik-like Terrapin, Jeff Adkins, saved another upset with a tip-in in overtime. And -- poof! -- another of dreamer Wojcik's reveries came true.
In the round of 32, it's Maryland vs. Navy.
A clever lead guard means as much to a team as a shot-blocking center. And because Evans is blessed with both, he had a game plan for the Tigers.
Wojcik executed it magnificently, and also ruined the full-court press LSU finally used when it realized more than minimal effort was needed to win.
As a kid in West Virginia, Wojcik surely had fantasies of going five for seven from the field in a big-time tournament, of making all eight foul shots and also doubling the assist production of all the opposition's guards combined.
There was considerable interest in him after his junior season, he said, "but the money and scholarships weren't around after the last year."
Wojcik joined the Navy; the world he soon saw was its prep school.
"He's not the quickest player," Evans said. "He's not the best athlete, but he allowed very little penetration on defense. And LSU isn't a very good perimeter team."
Just about the time stunned fans here figured LSU had finally awakened and was about to assume control, a wisp in white would take another glory hop over taller players.
Against the LSU press, Wojcik was content to dribble several seconds off the clock and pass to an open teammate. But the Tigers not only often gave him an open path to the basket, they all but carpeted it.
Thank you very much, Wojcik would think, skipping downcourt after layup after layup.
"I'm on cloud nine," he said.
Of Sunday's game with Maryland, Wojcik said: "I've followed the ACC for years. (Adrian) Branch will be a pro, (Len) Bias will be a pro and (Keith) Gatlin probably will be a pro.
"It's a compliment to us, and we're not scared."
Wojcik chose Navy for basketball but senses his future will be as a surface warfare officer. Evidently, it's like being a point guard aboard ship.