Dunbar's Alexander can do without stats, fame, but not game

January 28, 1991|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Special to The Evening Sun

Once he was the precocious one -- the first freshman to play basketball on a Dunbar varsity team coached by Pete Pompey.

Three years later Terrance Alexander is a Division I college prospect but, ironically, the eyes of the public most often focus on even younger players -- juniors Michael Lloyd and Donta Bright and sophomore Keith Booth.

"It doesn't bother him," said Pompey. "Terrance gives a lot of suggestions to the other guys. They've got a lot of respect for him. They know that this guy can play."

Indeed he can. A two-year starter at shooting guard for the top-ranked Poets (18-1), Alexander also helps out at the point. His averages of 19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists reflect the breadth of his skills.

And it's not a desire for statistics or fame that drives Alexander, a senior co-captain. He just loves basketball. "I enjoy everything from the smelly socks to the locker room," he said.

Raised by his grandmother in the Lafayette housing project, Alexander started bouncing a basketball on the court outside their door when he was just 4. "I used to get out there early in the morning, from 7:30 to 8 or 9 a.m., and play by myself. My grandmother used to watch me while she hung up clothes."

Alexander, called "Scooter" by nearly everyone but his teachers, has lived with his mother since he was 15 but still visits his grandmother almost daily.

Dunbar basketball has long been a point of community pride in East Baltimore, and the lure drew him at an early age. "I came to a game one time when I was 11 or 12," he said. "I saw the crowd and said I want to be a part of this."

Subsequently, Alexander helped bring in other parts of the current team. He, Lloyd, Bright and Booth knew each other from summer basketball. "We all realized we could be great if we all came together," he said. "We told Mike to come down, that we could be one of the best teams in the country in a few years."

Those few years have passed and the Poets now are ranked third in the nation and first in the East Coast Region by Sports Features Syndicate (distributed by the Associated Press). As the team has improved, so has Alexander.

"He has the whole package," said Pompey. "He's one of the best offensive rebounders I've ever seen in high school for a 6-foot-3 guard. He penetrates well and is a better than adequate defensive player. The greatest improvement he's made has been in his ballhandling and shooting. Last year it just skyrocketed to the point that he's a big-time player."

Instead of attending a summer basketball camp as he had the previous two years, this past summer Alexander played unlimited basketball in Baltimore. "That definitely helped me," he said. "There's no zone defenses so you have to play your man. You have to buckle down and earn respect from the older guys. They're not going to give you anything.

"I think it was a lot more intense than at a camp. There's a lot more college coaches at a camp to see you play, but I think it helped my game a lot."

Although the college coaches may have missed him this summer, Dunbar's success has meant ample opportunity to be noticed this winter. "A lot of people who didn't know about him before know about him now," Pompey said.

Towson State, Hartford, Northeastern and Miami have shown the most interest. Alexander, a 3.0 student, has scored 820 on the SAT, well over the NCAA minimum of 700 for freshman eligibility. But he's taking the test again to raise his score.

He'd like to play some as a freshman, but isn't looking to start necessarily. As large a part of his life as basketball is, Alexander has kept it in perspective. "It's not your life, it's a game," he said. "I'm looking for a school where I'll be comfortable. You have to be happy in all phases of life."

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