Biggs soars above the crowd Eagles forward is shooting star

February 25, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

It would be hard to find a high school basketball player more respected by his peers for his on-court skills than Centennial forward Damion Biggs.

So last Friday, when the 6-foot-3 senior put on the greatest half-game shooting performance in county history, people who saw it were awed but not really surprised.

The Eagles, tied with Hammond for first place at the time, trailed the Bears 30-10 at halftime and looked out of it. But Biggs was determined that his team would not go down with a whimper.

So he came out firing in the second half, scoring 36 points and becoming the first Centennial player to score 1,000 career points. He needed 16 to reach 1,000, but scored 38 for the game and now totals 1,022 for his three-year varsity career.

Biggs made six three-pointers in that half, giving him 28 for the season. But the Eagles lost, 67-66.

Mount Hebron's Barry Young holds the county's single-game scoring record of 51 points. Young, who went on to play at Nevada-Las Vegas, scored 29 points in the first half of that 1986 record-setting game and 22 in the second half.

Biggs is averaging 18.0 points and 8.5 rebounds. The team has no statistics for him on steals, blocks and assists, but he certainly averages at least three or four of each.

Hammond point guard Kelvin Stevens admires Biggs' talent.

"He's the best I've ever played against except for Duane Simpkins, who's with Maryland," Stevens said.

Hammond guard Irving Conwell said: "He's a great player. He lit us up and I hope I never see anything like that against us again."

Hammond coach Jack Burke, who has watched a lot of great players, compared Biggs' performance to the best he has ever seen.

"It was the second greatest half I've ever seen by one player," Burke said. "The only one better was when Quintin Dailey of Cardinal Gibbons [who later played in the NBA] scored 35 in one half against DeMatha."

Biggs, to the consternation of some of his loyal admirers, has not had a single college basketball scholarship offer.

He'd like to play at a major college and has been accepted at the University of North Carolina.

Unless a better offer comes along, he thinks he'll try to make that team as a walk-on.

"I think I can play at North Carolina," Biggs said.

If Dean Smith ever sees the tape from last Friday's game, he may think so, too.

Mike Mongelli, a former Hammond coach who has sent three players to Division I schools and is as knowledgeable as any basketball observer in the area, said: "He could play Division I anywhere. He's a born shooter. He's left-handed.

"In 1983, I coached Terry Scott, who went on to play for Franklin & Marshall and ended up making third-team All-America his senior year. And this kid [Biggs] is better than Scott. To shoot the way he did in a prime-time game was something special."

Biggs' coach, Jim Hill, is one of his biggest backers.

"Damion does everything for us but sell popcorn," Hill said. "He'd score a lot more, but his concept of team ball keeps him from shooting too much."

Biggs, one of the most even-tempered players in the league, sometimes brings the ball upcourt against the press, makes all of Centennial's inbounds passes and said likes to pass as much as score.

"My teammates got on me last season about not shooting enough. They wanted to see me get 20 or 25 points every game," he said. He averaged 16.2 last season and 13.2 as a sophomore.

Although Friday's game was his biggest scoring effort so far, he scored 30 earlier this season against C. Milton Wright and 29 against North Carroll.

Last season, he scored 35 points when the Eagles upset county champion Oakland Mills in the final league game. Centennial had never beaten Oakland Mills under Hill. Biggs also beat Hammond twice last season with baskets at the buzzer.

Hill said that often he must tell Biggs in close games that it's time for him to step up.

"What I mean is I want him to shoot more, but sometimes he thinks that means he needs to start passing more," Hill said.

Biggs thinks he has things he needs to work on if he hopes to become a college player.

"My ball-handling and defense need work. And sometimes I'm too passive. I need to take charge more," he said.

Hill describes Biggs as the team's leader on and off the court.

"Other kids look up to him as their role model," Hill said. "Even teachers at school talk to him as if he's an adult and not just a 17-year-old."

Biggs is part of a program in which he helps to mediate disputes between students at Centennial. He's also vice president of the student government.

He has a 3.1 grade-point average and scored 1,120 on his SATs. He's interested in studying math or science in college. His only scholarship offer so far is a $4,000 academic scholarship to UMBC.

He attended the prestigious 5-Star basketball camp last summer hoping to attract some college scouts.

"But I didn't play that well," Biggs said. "They kept telling us to pass the ball inside, so I didn't get to shoot much."

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