The dreams of Lyndon DeBellotte, Mike Lonergan and Kevin Boddie aren't of stardom in pro basketball. The college players know they probably won't be drafted by anyone, and they really don't care much.

"It never was my dream, but if the opportunity {to play in the pros} calls, Lyndon DeBellotte will try," said DeBellotte, a senior guard for the University of the District of Columbia. "That's what other guys go to school for, to get drafted. That's not my goal."

Lonergan and Boddie play point guard and forward, respectively, at Catholic University. The seniors are hoping to help improve the Cardinals' 15-10 record last season and push Catholic into the Division III playoffs for the first time.

"I love playing basketball," said the 5-10, 150-pound Lonergan, who played in high school at Archbishop Carroll. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could play in college, even if it was at Division III."

"The only thing on this level is the emphasis is on school, academics," said Boddie, who went to DeMatha High School but didn't play for the Stags. "We're here because we want to be. That's the motivation."

Said Catholic Coach Jack Bruen: "The Division III player is a guy who really does love the game. When your student has a lab and misses the game, that's the way it is at Division III."

DeBellotte, who starred at Cardozo in the Interhigh League, is the catalyst for the Division II Firebirds, who finished 24-6 last season.

"He's better than {former American University guard Frank} Ross, better than anybody who graduated from Maryland or Howard last year," said UDC Coach Wil Jones. "He's a great player."

DeBellotte came to UDC in part because of Jones. "He lived across the street from me," DeBellotte said. "He was my hero. I used to come over to his house and see all the trophies. He was a guard himself, and he teaches me a lot."

In 1986, DeBellotte averaged 15.7 points a game as a junior for the Firebirds, shooting 55 percent from the field with 57 assists. Coming into his senior season last year, he was a preseason all-America.

But he broke a bone in his shooting hand during the summer of 1986. Complications set in after surgery, and it failed to heal. DeBellotte had to have pins inserted for the bone to set properly. He was redshirted last season.

"For me, it wasn't no thing to lay off," DeBellote said. "The layoff didn't really bother my game, because I was lifting weights and playing {pickup games} at AU. The only thing that matters was missing . . . the game."

Though UDC got as high as fifth in the Division II rankings last season, Jones said a healthy DeBellotte may have taken the Firebirds even higher. "I didn't lose last year after Dec. 6 and I didn't have him," he said in reference to UDC's 17-game win streak, which ended against top-ranked Norfolk State. "Now I've got them all back. Mine can play. It's just a matter of me getting them out there."

And Jones, never given to understatement, said DeBellotte can more than make up for UDC's departed Johnny Gantt. "Black {DeBellotte's nickname} is the hub to it," Jones said. "He's a great shooter. He's a scorer. He's a great shooter and a scorer. You don't find that too often."

At Catholic, Lonergan and Boddie both played in all 25 games last season. Lonergan's biggest asset is his composure. He doesn't score much, averaging 3.6 points last season, and isn't particularly quick.

"One of the things we really needed was a lot of leadership," Bruen said. "It's important that we establish a sense of what we're doing out there. Mike has no panic under pressure, which is especially important with a young team early in the season."

"He thinks like the coach," said junior guard Ken Wills, a teammate of Lonergan's while at Carroll and the leading returning scorer (12.1 points per game) for the Cardinals.

Boddie averaged only 5.7 points last season, but his 5.1 rebounds per game were second on the team. This season he'll team with junior forward Kevin Morrison to form the nucleus of the Cardinals' inside game. Catholic needs increased scoring from Lonergan and Boddie with the departure of Rob McCarry and Charles Thompson, whose 18 and 14 points per game, respectively, last season constituted 40 percent of Catholic's offense.

"It's amazing that he's come as far as he has," Bruen said of Boddie. "He didn't play in high school. I think he's going to be an excellent Division III player this year. He's just a little bit away from being a dominating player in this game."

Most likely, he will have just one season to dominate. Next year, he'll be looking for a job in the electrical engineering field. DeBellotte, a leisure studies major, wants to work with the handicapped. Only Lonergan sees athletics in his future; he wants to be a coach.

"At this level, you don't have to be out here," Boddie said. "But it helps you build your self-esteem."