- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Navy’s Basil Daratsos bummed a ride from senior Tommy Wallin last weekend to visit former high school teammate Mark Bryan, now a midfielder at Johns Hopkins.

As they entered Baltimore, something caught Daratsos’ attention: M&T; Bank Stadium.

“I’m like ‘Whoa.’ I said ‘Tommy, in four weeks I want you to be here,’ ” Daratsos said. “And he said ‘I want you to be here with me.’ ”

The unseeded Midshipmen’s possible march to Memorial Day weekend begins today with a first-round NCAA tournament game at No. 8 North Carolina (9-5). And part of the reason Navy (11-3) harbors final four hopes is Daratsos, a fast-learning freshman who solidified the Mids’ top midfield line.

He has 16 goals and two assists as a hard-shooting complement to senior starters Wallin and Billy Looney and is one of the few plebes to etch out a regular role this season.

Much of it comes from a fastidious commitment to film analysis with assistant coach John Tillman. Daratsos’ heavy class schedule meant some days he could only spend an hour dissecting the game. On Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester, the total ballooned to two to three hours.

It was a significant load in addition to the challenge of the academy’s rigorous courses. But with the chance to improve individually and enhance his teammates’ postseason chances, it seemed a logical approach to take.

“I want to make sure I’m ready for whatever,” Daratsos said. “I try to step back and think about how another team would look at me. They see an inexperienced kid, so what would they do? They’d pressure you or maybe slide you differently, just try to confuse you a little. I just want to see as much as I can.”

Take the Mids’ regular-season meeting with Colgate, when Daratsos knew the Raiders would take away his shot from the right side. He proceeded to score twice from the left side in the first two minutes and finished with a career-high four goals.

Sometimes the extra preparation permits him to anticipate a slide, setting off a flurry of activity that leads to a goal four passes later. At other moments, he tries to take care of things himself, to the occasional amusement of some of his more disciplined teammates.

“He’s deceptively fast,” Looney said. “But he’s fast enough to get his hands free. Sometimes it’s ‘Basil, Basil, one more’ and then it’s ‘Good shot, man.’ ”

Looney knows the extra passing will come in time, as it did for him when he ran on the first line as a freshman. But for now, Daratsos’ approach is serving Navy well since he gives the Mids three multifaceted starting midfielders who at least merit the consideration of a pole.

“If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” Tillman said. “He’s a guy we kind of threw to the wolves, but he’s earned it. If he played like a freshman all year we’d have been in trouble, and he really hasn’t.”

Daratsos remembers his first meeting with Tillman in his guidance counselor’s office in Niskayuna, N.Y. Tillman told him a two-hour practice would be his favorite time of the day at the academy, a thought that possessed plenty of appeal.

“We have a lot of guys, the reason they chose to come to school here was to play lacrosse,” coach Richie Meade said. “That’s their passion, and Basil fits in that category. The benefit to the Naval Academy and the country is guys that have that type of passion for lacrosse generally become very good naval officers.”

That passion prompts Daratsos to rush into the dressing room before each home game, just for a glimpse of helmets facing the same way, crisply hung jerseys and clean cleats placed in every locker.

And it drives him back to the film room, like a recent session when Tillman pointed to do-it-all former stars Jon Birsner and Steve Looney.

“He said, ‘Boy, they love to play.’ and I said ‘I love to play,’ ” Daratsos said. “And he said ‘Yeah, you do.’ I said ‘I’m never going to take this for granted.’ ”

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