No one has to remind starting senior forward Francis Ebong that Navy did not make the NCAA tournament in his first three seasons. Ebong likely hears about it when he returns home, as both of his older brothers played in the tournament -- Ben with Davidson in 1998 and Victor with UNC Wilmington in 2000.

Francis Ebong has a few distinctions of his own. His 7.3 rebounds per game last season led the Patriot League. He also was a member of his high school's Nebraska state champion academic decathlon team in 1998. (The decathlon pits students in competition against those from other schools in 10 categories, including art, economics, literature and science.)

The Midshipmen appear strong up front with Ebong, starting center Mitch Moore and forward Scott Long. However, six players started at guard last season; the position was so thin because of injuries and poor play that Coach Don DeVoe moved two players into the starting lineup from the junior varsity near the end of the season.

Guard Jason Jeanpierre, the team captain, is the top outside shooter. Sophomore guard Taj Mathews was a three-year starter for Mercer Island High near Seattle. The school won the state title his sophomore year and 13 graduates play Division I basketball.

Among the newcomers, forward David Hooper was The Post's Prince William Extra player of the year two years ago while at Gar-Field (he spent last year at the Naval Academy Prep School) and guard Kelvin Boatner was a high school teammate of Washington Wizards forward Jared Jeffries at Bloomington North High in Indiana.

One thing is almost certain -- DeVoe will win his 500th career game this season. After he won his 499th last February, Navy went 0-5, including a loss to Army.

-- Christian Swezey

Two of Francis Ebong's brothers have played in NCAAs: Ben in '98 (Davidson) and Victor in 2000 (UNC Wilmington).