Towson's Biggs aims for a happy ending Amid changes, senior still Tigers' leader

November 21, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Ralph Biggs hopes to become a sportswriter for a newspaper when his basketball playing days at Towson University are over.

But first the 6-foot-6 senior forward must write a final chapter in a Towson career that has taken him to the heights a few times and the depths on more occasions than he cares to remember.

As Biggs prepared for tomorrow's 2 p.m. season opener at American University, he readily recalled those exhilarating days as a freshman when he laughed and celebrated with his teammates after they stunned Louisville at the Towson Center and upset West Virginia at Shepherd College.

But he also sadly remembers how the Tigers went out and lost to Radford, 76-62, the next game after beating Louisville and fell to a 12-15 record for the 1994-95 season.

"Knocking off Louisville was great and fine. It was a great time for Towson," Biggs said. "But we didn't build on it. We face the same situation with Michigan Monday night. We'd love to win that game but if we don't, we can't let it tear our whole season apart."

After his freshman season, Biggs lived through two conference changes in two years and a tumultuous ending to his junior season last year, even though he led the team in scoring with a 18.8 average and scored 30 points in a 72-69 victory over Northeastern in an America East opening-round tournament game.

Terry Truax was on his way out as coach after 14 seasons, the team was falling toward a 9-19 finish and Biggs felt helpless because he couldn't do anything to stop the losing.

"I was not happy last year. I was the team leader but I wasn't leading my team," he said. "I was very disappointed."

Biggs would also serve as the team spokesman during a transition period from Truax and his popular top assistant, Jimmy Meil, to new coach Mike Jaskulski.

Biggs and the players supported Meil as their choice to replace Truax but soon accepted Jaskulski.

"We liked those guys," Biggs said of Truax and Meil. "But we soon realized change is going to happen and you can't sit with your heads down. We looked at it as coaches are coaches and players are players. The only difference is philosophical. We all want the same thing and that is to win. He [Jaskulski] didn't come here to lose."

Jaskulski said he was surprised at "how little resistance" he faced as the new coach and promised every player he would get a chance to prove himself on merit and not anything that happened in the past.

"I didn't look at any tape of any past games," Jaskulski said. "Because I didn't want to come in with preconceptions of any players."

With the air now cleared between Jaskulski and the players, Biggs wants to close out his career with a lot of stability and a lot of wins.

"A defensive presence in the middle is the main thing we need," Biggs said. "We know we can score 78 points a game like last year. Defense is the main difference we're facing this year. Coach 'Jaz' is very defensive-minded and takes a lot of pride in it. That is the message he is trying to get across to us."

A tough man-to-man with a lot of help on the ball is the Jaskulski theme.

"When everybody is playing it right, it almost works like a zone," Biggs said.

There also will be a slight change for Biggs in the amount of playing time he will see this season.

Depending on the pace of the game, Jaskulski said he wants to give the slender Biggs, who averaged 32.8 minutes a game last season, more rest.

"If it's a slow-paced game, Ralph won't need as much rest," Jaskulski said. "I think we'll start the season having Ralph go from 20 to 25 minutes. I asked him how many minutes he could play all-out without ever letting up a bit and he said 'about 22.' He will still be our go-to guy with the clock winding down because he has a gift for slashing to the basket and getting that little jumper of his off."

The new coach said he does not want people judging Biggs' play this season by the 18.8 points he averaged last year.

"Ralph might average 14 but we'll win more games," Jaskulski said. "His stamina has improved this season and that bodes well for the future."

Biggs came to Towson weighing only 158 pounds but has built himself up to 174.

"I play a quickness game," Biggs said. "They [Towson coaches] want me to be the strongest player I can be at the best playing weight for me. They've never told me I had to weigh a certain amount. I'll never be a Derick Newton [a Tigers 6-4, 220-pound forward]."

As to the possible reduction in playing time, Biggs said, "If I play 22 minutes, score 12 points and we win, everything will be OK."

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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