Towson looks to hit Big South in big way With Boyd back, Tigers are loaded

November 23, 1992|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Only four college basketball teams in America have won three consecutive league championships, and one of them is Towson State.

But the Tigers, who did it in the now defunct East Coast Conference, will sail into uncharted waters this season.

They might have enough talent and experience to make it a pleasant voyage.

For Towson's entry into the 8-year-old Big South Conference, senior Devin Boyd returns from a lost season to direct the team, ECC Rookie of the Year Terrance "Scooter" Alexander shifts to a more comfortable shooting guard spot, two other starters are back and the freshman class appears extremely promising.

It all adds up to contention in the nine-member Big South, which stretches over four states. Most important to Towson, it has an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as reward for its champion, a plum the ECC lacked in its final season.

"I think we're as good as any [in the Big South] and better than a few," said Towson coach Terry Truax. "There are maybe seven teams that could win. But you just don't know for sure until you get acclimated to playing at these places."

Towson will be missing two outstanding players, rugged guard Terrance Jacobs, the ECC Player of the Year in 1991-92, and flashy forward Chuck Lightening, another All-ECC pick.

But Boyd is back after redshirting last season because of a fractured elbow. And if Boyd's former teammate at Walbrook High, 6-foot-7 freshman Stevie Thomas, progresses as anticipated, the losses should be minimal.

"He's raw," Truax said of Thomas. "But it's a matter of time before he becomes a big factor. He gives us a dimension of physical play and offensive capability that we haven't had."

Overall, the coach rates the freshman class "three times as good as last year's" when the only recruit was Alexander, who should thrive as a scorer without the burden of handling the ball so often now that Boyd is back.

"Scooter has improved his long-range shot," said Boyd. "He's feeling the confidence."

Alexander, a Dunbar graduate, was forced to the point when Boyd was injured in the opener. Alexander said he believes his 14.8 scoring average "should rise" with Boyd to deal him the ball. "But remember, there's me going to him also," he said.

Another freshman who could make waves is Ralph Blalock, who led Sanford Academy to two Delaware state championships. That is the same school that sent Lewis Waller to the Tigers.

"He's been more than a pleasant surprise," Truax said of Blalock. difficult for him to be behind Terrance Alexander, but we'll find some spots for him."

"The only thing in his way right now is me," said Boyd.

The other recruit, Cardinal Gibbons' Quintin Moody, signed last November in anticipation of Boyd's departure and now may be resigned to learning for one season.

Center John James and forward Larry Brown are returning vTC starters, and forward Matt Campbell played in all 30 games, starting seven times.

Of the frontcourt, Boyd said, "All we need from the big guys is some rebounds and maybe six to eight points a game each. If they do that, we'll play with anybody."

Towson has been fortunate in that its players have missed little class time in recent seasons because of the proximity of its ECC rivals. There will be more overnight trips in the Big South.

"We were really spoiled," said Truax. "We had 16 to 18 road games and only missed one or two days [of class]. But I don't think our schedule is that much worse."

The schedule includes more tests against teams from more prestigious conferences. The Tigers play at Oklahoma and Maryland, and they could face Connecticut in the Connecticut Mutual Classic during Christmas break.

The Big South? That's another story. Liberty is picked to win the league, and other teams are UMBC, Radford, Campbell, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Winthrop and UNC-Asheville.

"I'm glad we haven't played many teams from that conference," Boyd said. "I think we can sneak up on the Big South. And this year we want to start right off the bat."

Towson State basketball at a glance

Coach: Terry Truax, 10th season, 126-139

Affiliation: Big South Conference

1991-92 record: 17-13, 9-3 in East Coast Conference, tournament champions

Radio: WITH (1230 AM) all games; WTMD (89.7 FM) selected games

Starters lost: Terrance Jacobs, Chuck Lightening

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