'A really strong little person'

Towson's Baker-Brice breaks scoring record

  • "She will go down in history as the best ever to have played here," Towson coach Joe Mathews says of senior point guard Shanae Baker-Brice, shown training with her team at the Towson Center last month.
"She will go down in history as the best ever to have played… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
January 15, 2010|By Mike Klingaman | mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

At 5 feet 5, Towson's Shanae Baker-Brice has heard it all.

Hey, Shorty, get off the court. ... Stand up, so I can guard you. ... My dribble is taller than youare.

Baker-Brice just shrugs, smiles ... and runs the jokers off the floor. A deft, ball-hawking point guard, she is Towson's star and the big reason the Tigers upset then-25th-ranked Maryland last month.

Thursday night, in a 72-68 loss to James Madison in overtime, the senior from Washington scored a season-high 32 points and became Towson's all-time scoring leader. Her 1,557 points surpassed Danielle Barry's 1,555 points, a record set in 1994.

But there's more to Baker-Brice's repertoire than a 19.4 scoring average. She's fifth in assists all time at Towson and third in steals.

One of the team's smallest players, she is its third-best rebounder this season.

"She's got the whole game. The ball is really a part of her," Tigers coach Joe Mathews said. "Her first game, as a freshman, Shanae scored 30 against Georgetown. Afterward, I gave her a hug and said, 'Thanks for coming.'

"She will go down in history as the best ever to have played here."

Game after game, she darts across the court, zigging through traffic, eluding efforts to double-team her, a slip of a player dwarfed by the she-scrapers of college basketball.

Never mind that Baker-Brice's name is longer than her arm span. Or that, at a youngish 22, she could probably pass for a freshman at Theodore Roosevelt High, her alma mater.

"Don't judge me from the outside, OK?" she said during an interview. "Because I'm a really strong little person."

Then she proved it, arm-wrestling a Sun reporter twice and beating him easily.

"I may weigh only 131 pounds, but I've got the biggest heart out there," she said.

She proved it in Towson's 67-55 victory over the Terps, a game that brought the Tigers, and their ace, to the fore. Against Maryland - a program that won a national championship in 2006 - Baker-Brice scored a game-high 25 points, had seven assists and made three steals. At the finish, the home crowd of 2,243, the largest in Towson women's basketball history, went nuts.

"We'd been waiting for a marquee win," said Mathews, in his eighth year as coach. "We'd never beaten a ranked team, and Shanae played a huge part in that. She always plays bigger than what she is, but her poise and energy grew as the game went on - and she fed it to the rest of the team."

In the stands that night was Barry, the one-time Towson center whose scoring record fell Thursday night. Baker-Brice, she said, is a worthy successor.

"She's a phenomenal player to watch," said Barry, a Maryland state trooper. "She takes charge, creates opportunities and she can finish.

"It's no surprise that she's the one to break my record."

The Maryland game over, Baker-Brice fought her way past autograph seekers, strode up to Terps coach Brenda Frese and thrust out her hand. Frese took it and smiled.

"I'll never forget that look. It made me feel really good," Baker-Brice said. "I kind of look up to her. I mean, she won a national championship."

Towson, meanwhile, keeps trying for its first NCAA tournament bid. The Tigers set a school record for victories last season, going 22-10, but failed to reach the bigger goal.

"That's the one thing that has not been accomplished with Shanae," Mathews said. "It's no coincidence that we'll have had four winning seasons with her as point guard. I knew she'd be a program-changer when we recruited her.

"But while great players have the ability to carry teams on their backs, they also need to raise the level of play of everyone around them.

"That's something we're still striving for. If Shanae reaches that level, great things can happen."

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