City inroads finally lead to Towson


Take away the guys in uniforms, and that was still a pretty fair lineup that filed into the locker room after Towson State repeated as the East Coast Conference champion nine days ago.

Stopping by to soak up the atmosphere were three of the area's premier seniors: center Devin Gray of St. Frances-Charles Hall; Walbrook center Stevie Thomas; and Dunbar guard Terrance Alexander. Two of Alexander's Poet teammates, Donta Bright and Mike Lloyd, were also there, as was another junior, Mike Smith of St. Frances.

With Dulaney's Albert Smith, even the area's sophomore class was represented.

All of those players aren't going to show up one day in Towson State uniforms, but the Tigers are being watched by some of Baltimore's best young basketball talent.

That in itself is significant. Towson State wouldn't have made it two straight NCAA tournaments without local talent, but with the exception of Devin Boyd, those Baltimoreans began their careers elsewhere.

If the Tigers are bounced, as expected, from tomorrow's (7:35 p.m., WBAL-TV) NCAA first-round game against Ohio State at the Dayton Arena, the athletic program stands to make a little over $50,000. Coach Terry Truax knows there are other benefits.

"I know from my days when I was an assistant coach, it was a lot easier recruiting at North Carolina than when I was at Mississippi State," Truax said. "Our system hasn't changed drastically, and neither has the coaching, but the fact is we've just gotten better players the last three, four years."

Keeping contact with lost recruits helped Towson State land Kurk Lee, Marty Johnson, Kelly Williamson, Kennell Jones and current guard Terrance Jacobs after they grew disenchanted at other colleges. Now Truax and Jim Meil, an assistant coach since 1982, before even Truax was on board, hope two straight visits to the NCAAs will convince locals to start at Towson State.

"It's easier to get your foot in the door now than it was five or six years ago," said Meil, who went to McDonogh High and played briefly at Lehigh. "More and more, people are receptive to us recruiting their kids. It's not like you have to beg guys to come to our games anymore."

Gray, honored by some as the state's top prep player, includes Maryland among his prospective college choices. Thomas has seen what another Walbrook product, Boyd, the East Coast Conference Player of the Year, has accomplished at Towson State. Besides Towson State, Alexander is also looking at Purdue, Richmond and Hartford.

Alexander signing a letter of intent next month would be a coup for the Tigers. Lee was a two-time ECC Player of the Year, but the current Towson State regime has never signed a prospect straight out of Dunbar. Poets coach Pete Pompey said that's not for lack of effort.

"Of all the colleges in Baltimore, Towson State does the best job of being visible," Pompey said. "Some of our kids don't bother to go to other games in town. The Baltimore kids I know are very fond of Jimmy Meil. He won't get all the players he's after, but that doesn't mean anything to him. He wants what's best for them."

Boyd and Jacobs are currently the only Baltimoreans playing for Towson State. Boyd's recruiting class included Ed Muldrow, a center from Loyola whose freshman season and career ended with a knee injury. Everett Cooper, like Jacobs from Southern, lasted only the 1987-88 season before flunking out.

Towson State and many other colleges are in a bind when it comes to signing Baltimoreans to letters of intent. Since 1986, fewer than one-third of the city's All-Metro players met the Proposition 48 standards needed for freshman eligibility.

Even some who do have difficulty with Towson State's admission standards, as a score of less than 400 on either half of the SAT requires a recruit to go through an exception process. Boyd was an exception, and the mass communications major has never been close to losing his eligibility.

"Presidents understand there are exceptions," Truax said. "Any kid who has a work ethic like Devin will open doors for other guys."

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