Jay Bias hoped to match brother's glory in sports

December 05, 1990|By Lynda Robinsonand Rafael Alvarez

The mourners came again last night to the small brown rancher in Landover, where James and Lonise Bias raised four children. Another son was lost. Another son was dead.

This time it was 20-year-old James "Jay" Stanley Bias III, who was shot to death in a car outside Princes George's Plaza yesterday afternoon. The last time it was his older brother, Len, a 22-year-old University of Maryland basketball star who died of a cocaine overdose in 1986.

"I don't know how they can cope with this," said Joe Girardi, the athletic director at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, where Len and Jay Bias played basketball and their brother Eric is a junior. "Two sons."

Jay Bias was a 15-year-old student at Northwestern when his older brother died two days after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Len Bias' death devastated his parents, his sister, Michelle, then 18, and his youngest brother, Eric, then 12.

But it seemed to hit Jay the hardest. While his parents remained composed at their son's funeral, Jay sobbed inconsolably.

He idolized Len and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Jay often talked about playing for the University of Maryland.

At Northwestern, Jay, a 6-foot-5-inch forward, was an All-American and one of the nation's most highly recruited players. He helped lead his team to a state championship in 1987, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He cartwheeled off the court in jubilant celebration when he was taken out of the game in the final seconds.

The game was played at Cole Field House on the University of Maryland's College Park campus, where Jay had watched his brother play so many times. Mrs. Bias, who has toured the country urging students to stay away from drugs since Len's death, often marveled at the courage it took for Jay to walk onto that court.

Jay's academic record made him ineligible to play at a Division I college. He enrolled at Allegany Community College in Cumberland, where he played during the 1988-89 season before leaving.

A neighborhood friend, Steve O. Marsh, 24, said Jay Bias had been working at a downtown Washington hotel and hoped to transfer to American University. "All he wanted was to play basketball," Mr. Marsh said.

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