In a season when Towson State learned to live without Kurk Lee, it has learned to love Terrance Jacobs.
It was a year ago that Lee, Towson's terrific scoring machine, averaged 26 points a game. Lee took the Tigers to the East Coast Conference championship and into the NCAA tournament, where they nearly upset Oklahoma.
This year the Tigers are on target to do it all again. They are top-seeded going into the ECC tournament that begins Saturday at Towson Center. They have a comparable record (17-10) to last year (18-13). They may even be better this year. And that's with Jacobs, a 6-foot-3 junior transfer, filling the hole at shooting guard left by Lee, who's now with New Jersey Nets.
"Terrance has acclimated to our offensive system better than any player I ever had," Towson coach Terry Truax said yesterday.
Although Jacobs doesn't have Lee's scoring power, he offers more versatility. He plays better defense, is the team's second-leading rebounder and gets a lot of points posting up in the paint. His averages: 15.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals.
Jacobs and Lee have something else in common, too. They both are Baltimore-bred players who went away to college and came home to play at Towson. Jacobs, who starred in football and basketball at Southern High, went to Old Dominion in 1988, Allegany Community College in 1989, and Towson this season. Lee's route was Dunbar, Western Kentucky and Towson.
They are the latest in an impressive line of local players who found success after transferring to Towson.
The list started with Tommy Jones (Towson Catholic) in 1985, and includes Marty Johnson (Cardinal Gibbons) in 1986, Stephen Dorsey (Gibbons) in 1987, and Kennell Jones (Poly), Kelly Williamson (Calvert Hall) and Lee (Dunbar) in 1988.
"The initial success we had achieved is directly related to these people coming into the program," Truax said.
Jacobs, who started four games at Old Dominion in 1988-89, left because he clashed with coach Tom Young. After a year at Allegany, he came to Towson for basketball and personal reasons. He wanted to be closer to his fiancee, his 2-year-old son, and his mother, he said.
"The success Kurk and Kennell had here played a big part of it, too," he said. "Plus Towson was on the rise, and I thought I could help the team go further."
While at Allegany, Jacobs also drew interest from Florida State, Colorado and West Virginia. But part of the lure of Towson was the possibility he might play football here. He passed for 1,500 yards at Southern, and still dreams about playing quarterback for Towson. But he admits it's a long shot. "About 70-30," he said.
Football's loss is Truax's gain.
"I like his competitiveness and toughness," Truax said. "If I see a loose ball and a Towson State jersey on the floor, I can pretty much be assured he'll be at the bottom of the pile.
"He's the best offensive rebounder for a perimeter player I've had. And I like his coach-ability. He seems to respond to things as well as any kid I ever had. I think he's very motivated."