This is that rarest of recruiting stories, one that actually turned out right. The school did its homework, the player exercised sound judgment, the big-time troublemakers stayed away. Extra, extra, read all about it.
Towson State basketball coach Terry Truax admits freshman guard Terrance Alexander "is probably a level above." But Alexander was shunned by most recruiters, so he stayed close to home, just like his grandmother wanted.
Anyone who saw Alexander play at Dunbar High School knew he was a unique talent. Now, three games into his college career, a lot of other people know it too. The big schools will kick themselves for missing this kid. Wait and see.
"I would just call it a great evaluation of talent by the Towson State coaching staff," Jim Meil, Truax's assistant and top recruiter, says with a chuckle. Meil first saw Alexander play in eighth grade. He waited five years to get his man.
Is this a steal, or what? Alexander, 18, is the first Towson player to be named ECAC Rookie of the Week -- a significant accomplishment, considering the award encompasses players from the Big East and Atlantic 10 as well as the ECC.
The Towson coaches view him mainly as a shooting guard, but they're asking him to play the point in place of injured senior Devin Boyd, the reigning ECC Player of the Year. "It's asking a lot," Truax says, but remarkably enough, not asking too much.
Alexander's first two baskets as a collegian tied the score midway through the second half of a loss at Colorado. He scored 17 points in his first start at North Carolina, and matched that total in Towson's 99-97 victory over Lehigh last night.
He obviously wasn't in sync, shooting 6-for-14 and committing four turnovers while compiling five steals, two rebounds and three assists. But he does enough good things -- knocking down a 10-footer here, taking a charge there -- to show why his mentors always considered him special.
* * *
Leon Howard coached Alexander at two recreation centers, first Lafayette, then Oliver. He recalls Alexander in the deciding game of an 11-and-under citywide league, passing off for the winning layup while triple-teamed as time ran out. "After that," Howard says, "he became the talk of the town."
Naturally, Alexander wound up at national powerhouse Dunbar, where Pete Pompey calls him the "best all-around player I've ever coached." Naturally, he figured to be recruited by the Ohio States as well as the Towson States, but for some reason, it just didn't happen.
"I'm glad he's at Towson because the people there are going to take care of him," Pompey says. "But he's a big-time player. He could have been at a whole lot of big-time schools. My personal opinion is that Terrance Alexander is going to be a helluva player wherever he goes."
Pompey believes Alexander might have been overshadowed by more heralded underclassmen like Donta Bright and Michael Lloyd. Alexander believes his chances were hurt when he couldn't afford to attend basketball camp the summer before his senior year. Whatever, grades weren't the problem.
Towson's Meil recognized as much, and he never stopped plugging. He works hard to attract city players to Towson -- Boyd is from Walbrook, Terrance Jacobs from Southern -- but Alexander, like Kurk Lee before him, represented a special challenge.
"You can't hide them when they're at Dunbar, that's for sure," Meil says. "It was like, 'Terrance, you don't have to score 30 tonight at Lake Clifton. A nice, casual 20 would do.' "
"I've known him for so long. I didn't think he'd be the kind of kid who would be swayed at the end by unrealistic things. He has a good set of values. He could read through it."
But just ask Pompey. Meil took no chances.
Pompey tried talking up Alexander to bigger schools.
"Coach Meil," he recalls, "told me to be quiet."
* * *
It came down to Towson and Richmond, which means it cames down to Nellie Brown. A sinister recruiter, perhaps? No, just Alexander's grandmother. She's 67 years old, and Alexander lived with her on and off until he was 15.
"I value her opinion," says Alexander, who, it should be noted, listens to his parents as well. "She didn't tell me, but I could see it. When I told her I was going to Towson, I knew she was happy."
Nellie Brown wasn't among the 1,531 in attendance last night, but Alexander counted more than 20 other friends and relatives. "I had sweaty palms and everything," he was saying afterward. "Against North Carolina, I had none of that."
Alexander hit two foul shots to give Towson a 97-88 lead with 2:34 remaining, but Lehigh tied the score only 55 seconds later, following a play in which he lost his dribble. It was precisely the type of situation where Boyd would have seized control.
But Boyd's fractured elbow will keep him out another 5-7 weeks, leaving the freshman in charge. The 6-foot-3, 171-pound Alexander clearly needs to add strength, but that will come. Eventually he will return to shooting guard, and likely develop into a star.
Pompey says, "If you're willing to make a mistake, you should certainly regret not recruiting a kid like Terrance Alexander."
Upon hearing that, Meil just smiles. "He looks good in black and gold," Meil says. "We like him right where he is."