Better late than never for Bergan

March 04, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

Tracy Bergan never has had any difficulty leading others.

Being responsible for himself, however, is another matter.

Barring a series of upsets in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, Bergan is down to his last weekend as a college basketball player for Loyola.

His success has come as a point guard, but Bergan was a leader before he put on a uniform. He is the only hearing member of a family in which his parents, both sets of grandparents and brother were born deaf. Bergan recalls the grown-up tasks dropped on the little child -- ordering in restaurants, straightening out billing errors over the phone.

"It's hard to figure out Tracy," Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan said. "He lives in a couple of different worlds, and out of that background comes an incredibly complex person."

Boylan shepherded Bergan through a tumultuous five years at Loyola that included several detours apparently of Bergan's own making.

For all the good he has done for others -- his family, the football players at De Matha who got scholarships in part because he ran the offense so well, the Loyola basketball players he has set up with a school-record 509 assists -- there are times when Bergan, 23, hasn't seen to his own affairs.

Midway through his freshman year at Loyola, the college placed him on academic suspension. In his absence, the Greyhounds went 1-13.

Two years ago, Bergan felt over whelmed by personal problems and withdrew from Loyola. Minus Bergan and Michael Reese, Loyola reached an all-time low of 2-25 last season.

Loyola allowed Bergan back in January 1993. At the end of last semester, he failed to complete some course work, and missed another four games. Bergan wants the ball at the end of a game, buthe also waits until the end to tend to schoolwork. He'll let a finished paper gather dust in his computer.

"I had to mature early because I had to deal with adults at such a young age," Bergan said, "but the opposite happened when it came to doing things of my own on time. I was irresponsible [academically]when I came here, and I'm still learning. I've suffered the consequences for that."

When Bergan returned to Loyola, it was without scholarship. Besides staffing every summer camp he could handle, Bergan earned money for tuition by working the desk at a hotel near his home in Lanham, on a surveying crew as a rod-and-chain man and as the coach of the junior varsity football team at Eleanor Roosevelt High.

First-year coach Skip Prosser, who has guided Loyola to its first winning record since 1986-87, was charged with channeling Bergan's emotion.

"Sometimes, his drive gets him in trouble, because he really believes he can do everything he tries on the court," Prosser said. "We have a lot of kids who haven't had a lot of success at the collegiate level. When the self-doubts creep up, Tracy's the one the young kids look to for courage."

In his first three seasons, Bergan, 6 feet 1, 155 pounds, often was getting the ball to Kevin Green, who scored 2,154 points for the Greyhounds. This season, they don't have a jump shooter of Green's ability. Bergan's assists are down slightly, but he's averaging a career-high 17.4 points.

The line goes that Bergan will be the Most Valuable Player in every game; you just have to wait to see if it will be for Loyola or the opposition.

The Greyhounds led by 14 after nine minutes Sunday, but Bergan was behind a 10-0 run that got visiting Fairfield back in the game: He missed a 30-footer, committed three turnovers and got a technical for cursing an official. Bergan missed another three-pointer on a two-on-three break, but was fouled and made all three free throws to begin a three-minute stretch in which he scored 11 straight.

Bergan's numbers for the day: game-high totals of 30 points, which matched his season high, seven assists and six turnovers.

His final game at Reitz Arena was also the last gathering there of what Bergan dubbed The Flying Hands, deaf family and friends with whom he communicates through sign language. Afterward, he was front and center for a group photo, which included some pre-teen boys for whom Bergan has been a role model.

Bergan already has had a stab at coaching, and it's the career he's going to pursue. Is that the right field for someone who hasn't always seen to details?

"Look, I've got some good things to offer from this experience," Bergan said. "When I get into coaching, I'll be able to relate to the kid who'll be struggling."

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