Minus Boyd, Towson has point to prove as new season opens Truax still expects to contend

November 18, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

If the point is well taken, Towson State's basketball team should be well positioned this season to challenge for a spot in postseason play.

The Tigers are already in a preseason tournament, tipping off tonight against Big East power St. John's in the Preseason NIT. An NCAA or NIT berth at the finish would complete a coveted pair of bookends.

But to reach that objective, Towson must carry on without point guard Devin Boyd, the team's quarterback, top all-time scorer and defensive stopper.

Boyd left with 12 school records and the reputation as the Tigers' go-to guy.

But weep not for the Tigers. Although they also lost forward Larry Brown and two key reserves, coach Terry Truax says they again will be in the thick of the Big South Conference race.

For starters, Truax said the point-guard situation is "resolving itself" with sophomore Ralph Blalock stepping slightly ahead of former Cardinal Gibbons standout Quintin Moody.

"Ralph has practiced the first two weeks as well as anyone, and he will start," said Truax. "We're not going to try to do a lot of things in the early games, and he is certainly capable in terms of ability.

"But I want to emphasize that Quintin made it very close. In his second year, he is taking charge more."

In fact, the problem at the point may become a pleasant one if freshman Michael Keyes adapts quickly to the Truax system.

"It's helping him to have to guard the other two, and, of the three, he is probably the most natural at the position," Truax said. "We're pleased with the way things are developing."

The one certainty is that All-Big South shooting guard Scooter Alexander (Dunbar) will not return to the point, where he played when Boyd broke his arm two years ago.

"I don't really mind that," said Alexander, who set school records for points by a freshman (433) and sophomore (522). "There's a lot more freedom at shooting guard.

"I think once the season starts and everyone knows their role, the team will take on its face. We'll have an identity."

The Tigers also boast a quality backup to Alexander in freshman DeRon Robinson, who averaged 19.4 points at W. T. Woodson in Virginia. He's a quality outside shooter, a commodity Towson sorely needs after finishing last in the Big South in three-point attempts.

Despite three straight East Coast Conference crowns and a Big South regular-season title in the past four years, Towson has not been a high-percentage shooting team.

Truax said he hopes to remedy that with more emphasis on inside play, and has enlisted the aid of one of the masters, Adrian Dantley, to work with the big men.

"We're going to try to get in there and get fouled more," Truax said. "The addition of Jason Crump and an improved Stevie Thomas should enable us to depend less on the perimeter."

Crump (6 feet 9, 244 pounds) is a power player who transferred from Bowling Green and former Walbrook star Thomas (6-7, 231) is a very physical type who was used sparingly last season.

Two starters return in the frontcourt, 6-8 center John James, the Big South leader in blocks and Towson's leader in field-goal percentage among the regulars, and small forward Matt Campbell (Broadneck), the No. 3 scorer.

Freshman Florian Schneider, a player with a good outside touch, will back up Campbell.

Towson has a demanding early schedule, with games at St. John's, Loyola, Dayton, Delaware and Coppin State and neutral-court matches against Connecticut and Maryland before Christmas.

It is nothing new, and Truax said such competition is helpful. "Those games help prepare you for the tough ones on the road in the conference," he said. "We can take a loss. This team has proven it is resilient."

"When you go against those teams with bigger and better people -- and more of them -- it gets you ready," said Alexander. "When we get back to our conference, there's nothing we haven't seen already."

Defending champion Coastal Carolina (four returning starters) was picked by Big South coaches to repeat, with Towson right behind.

"I can't disagree," said Truax. "But it's unrealistic to think anybody will run away with it. We were 14-2, but there weren't any blowouts in there. I expect more of the same."

But the coach is wondering about the team's commitment after two weeks of workouts.

"We haven't had as much competition in practice as I would like," he said. "I'm not sure we know yet what it takes to be a championship team."

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