Doug Wojcik was walking toward the Navy bench this afternoon to join the celebration. Coach Paul Evans, knowing that his team's stunning 97-85 victory over Syracuse was secure, had decided the Midshipmen could handle the last 54 seconds without their point guard.
But as Wojcik started toward his joyous teammates, he was stopped in midstep. Dwayne (Pearl) Washington wanted to shake his hand. Wojcik's face lit up. Ever gracious, Washington put his arm around Wojcik and congratulated him.
"That was really something," Wojcik said a few minutes later, his eyes still dancing. "I mean for me to go out and play a guy like Pearl and have him come over afterwards like that. I'll never forget that. Never."
Like his team, Doug Wojcik lived the dream today. For this game, he was Navy's secret weapon.
"As good as center David Robinson and forward Vernon Butler were," Evans said, "Woj may have been the key to the whole game. If he doesn't handle Pearl and the press, we can't win."
Wojcik scored eight points and had five assists and only four turnovers, handling the ball on almost every possession.
All this from a kid nobody wanted four years ago when he was a senior at Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic High School. "I could have gone to Bethany College and played," he said. "That was it."
Evans wasn't sure whether Wojcik, 6 feet 1 and 180 pounds, could play in Division I. "His team was 25-2 when he was a senior and that said something," Evans said. "We asked him if he wanted to come play at Navy Prep for a year so we could watch his development. By the end of that year, we thought he could play."
By last season he was the starting point guard. In the opening round of the 1985 NCAAs, he went over, around and through LSU's pathetic guards for 18 points.
A notorious nonshooter, Wojcik took less than five shots a game this season, but averaged 7.3 assists a game, mostly feeding Robinson and Butler.
"He gets the ball where it has to go," Butler said. "We feel like if we get open, Woj will find us."
But could he handle the Pearl? In December, Navy never had a chance against the Pearl and his team in an 89-67 Syracuse romp. But today was a complete turnaround. Time and again Wojcik broke the pressure, found the open spot on the floor and got the ball to a middle man, who dished off for an easy basket.
"He's very smart," Washington said. "He's tough. I mean he doesn't back away and he doesn't make mistakes. He never got rattled today. We really never touched them with our press and he was the main reason. We couldn't get him tired."
Wojcik rarely gets tired. "Stamina is not my problem," he said. "I play a lot on emotion and that keeps me going when things get tight."
Emotion is constantly written on Wojcik's baby face. He is one of those natural leaders, the little guy who tells the big guys what to do and never gets any back-talk. And, he knew that today was a special day.
"I'm not sure it's really hit me what we've done," he said. "But you know if Kylor Whitaker had shot the way he normally does, it wouldn't have been this close. But this is great. I know when I get back home my friends will all want to know: 'What was it like to play the Pearl?' "
Play him and help beat him. But even on this most joyous of days, Wojcik had a concern. "I have two 10-page papers due in a week," he moaned. "Now I don't know when I'll have time to get them done."
He should be excused from one of them. "It's on naval leadership," Wojcik said. Today, Wojcik wrote the book on that subject.