Reunion time at Towson Alexander's return, NAC debut lift spirits

November 27, 1995|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

For Terrance "Scooter" Alexander, just being back in uniform and a part of Towson State's men's basketball team is a victory in itself. Everything else will have to fall in line.

"This is a breath of fresh air," he said while shooting baskets last week at the Towson Center. "I feel released."

Alexander, a 6-foot-3 senior guard from Dunbar, sat out as a redshirt last season, the Tigers' last as a member of the Big South Conference. The move made sense. There would be no automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and rather than waste his final year of eligibility, he was saved for Towson's debut in the North Atlantic Conference, which sends its champion to the big dance.

It also gave Alexander more time to improve his academic standing as he works toward a degree in mass communication.

"It wasn't a difficult decision," he said. "I thought it would be better for me to play this year, when I could graduate and have a chance at the NCAA tournament at the same time."

His absence led to another disappearance, that of Towson's usually strong play in the Big South. The Tigers were 29-5 in the conference the previous two seasons, but won just six games last winter.

"Last year's regretful performance probably reflected what Scooter Alexander means to our team," said coach Terry Truax. "A lot of people didn't realize that because we had some very good wins early against Mount St. Mary's and West Virginia. But we missed Scooter tremendously, not only in terms of his scoring efficiency but his leadership, the way he encourages the other players on the team. We didn't have a real leader last year."

Was the season a complete washout? Not exactly. Without Alexander, who had led Towson in scoring the previous season, the Tigers looked more to then-junior guard Ralph Blalock. And he prospered, averaging a team-high 17.3 points and being named all-conference.

The 19th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, Blalock developed a flair for the dramatic, winning three games with last-second shots. He gunned down Mount St. Mary's and West Virginia within a span of six nights, and hit from NBA three-point range to upend Delaware.

"I'm looking to have the ball down in the clutch in any situation," said Blalock, who has been lifting weights and added extra muscle to his 6-2 frame. "I think I stepped up to that challenge because of the absence of Scooter, but even with him there, I think I'm going to be the person they want with the ball down the stretch."

"There were some times last year," Truax said, "we would have even liked for him to have been more aggressive offensively. He's capable. He's got good range, good strength and he's a good shooter.

"Terrance's ability to create a little bit, bring the defense in, helps Ralph. And if we can get our point guards doing the same thing, I think that will enhance both Ralph and Scooter's capability."

How does Blalock, who will play some small forward this season, feel about Alexander's return? Just the mention of it brings a smile.

"With Scooter coming back, we've got that leadership back, as far as him being vocal and being an example," he said. "He's going to help a lot. He's going to lead us to, hopefully, the NCAA [tournament], with the help of the rest of the players."

"Ralph and I complement each other very well," Alexander said. "The things he does well go hand-in-hand with the things I do well. He's more of a shooter, and I'm more of a scorer. And Ralph's a little stronger than me, so he plays the bigger guys."

Alexander has his eye on more than just a possible berth in the NCAA tournament. The two-time All-Big South selection needs 531 points to surpass friend Devin Boyd's school record of 2,000.

"I've accomplished a lot of things since I've been here," he said. "I may as well go for the record."

Officials of the NAC are expecting big things from Alexander, judging by his placement on the preseason all-conference team. But Truax warns that it could take time for the old scoring touch to come back.

"He hasn't played in a year," Truax said. "It's difficult for any college athlete to sit out a year and then pick up immediately where they left off. So, I expect there will be a transition period for him. Unfortunately, we have to play some really top teams early, in terms of Maryland and Arizona. But he's a competitor, and he knows the system probably as well as anyone."

Towson State at a glance

Coach: Terry Truax (177-172), 13th season.

Affiliation: North Atlantic Conference.

1994-95 record: 12-15 overall, 6-10 in Big South.

Radio: WTMD (89.7 FM)

Arena: Towson Center (5,000)

Starters lost: One.

Tickets: Reserved seats $6 and $4. Call (410) 830-8447.

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