Familiarity encircles Beltway Reese, Alexander, Nixon stay close by


The common denominator is that they wanted to play closer to home.

Two of them transferred from bigger schools to make it so. The third never left the city, preferring to start his collegiate career on familiar ground.

All three loom as important figures in the fourth Baltimore Beltway Classic that begins with a doubleheader tonight at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's field house.

Mount St. Mary's and Loyola College clash for the 141st time in the 6 p.m. opener, followed by an East Coast Conference game between Towson State and host Maryland Baltimore County.

Already, Soni Nixon of UMBC, Michael Reese of Loyola College and Terrance Alexander of Towson State have made a significant impact for their teams, who have combined for only one victory against top-notch competition.

Nixon and Reese, 6-8 sophomore forwards, lead their squads in scoring and rebounding; Alexander, a 6-3 freshman guard, is averaging 16.3 points after replacing the Tigers' injured floor general, Devin Boyd, in the second half of the season opener.

They are happy and thriving in their new environments.

Nixon chose to go to Old Dominion after being recruited out of Oxon Hill High School by UMBC. But he seldom played and "got a little homesick," according to Retrievers coach Earl Hawkins. "He was on a strong team down there, and he wanted more playing time."

So, after averaging just 1.4 points and 1.0 rebounds for the Monarchs two years ago, Nixon joined Hawkins, who had coached against him in high school.

"There were some family problems and I wanted to be closer," said Nixon. "And I knew he [Hawkins] was a good coach. I had gotten to know him. UMBC was always in my mind."

In two games, Nixon has tied a school record with 23 points in a half, tied a record with 18 free-throw attempts and notched a double-double in both outings.

"He is a strong individual with a great ability to run," said Hawkins. "Soni reminds me of Larry Stewart because he has an uncanny knack for being where the ball is coming off the boards. It's a God-given talent.

"But I don't want him getting a big head. He has a long way to go, especially in post defense. We're happy with his progress, but we want more."

Nixon said he didn't practice after the first few weeks last year because he broke a metatarsal bone in his foot. "But I wouldn't call myself rusty. I think I'm coming back."

Loyola was fortunate to land Reese, who started 16 games as a freshman for Boston College, averaging 8.1 points and 3.3 rebounds.

"It was a late date, July, and he was looking for a place to play. He was having trouble finding one," said Greyhounds coach Tom Schneider. "We happened to have a scholarship left. There was no grand plan or scheme to get him. We were lucky."

Reese made his presence known quickly. He scored the team's first 10 points against Stanford, then had a career-high 34 against Pacific. He leads Loyola in practically every category except assists.

Reese's playing experience in the Big East is a plus for Reese, a big leaper and solid defender.

"It was a lot more physical in the Big East," he said. "This is more of a guard conference, and I'm not taking on guys like Billy Owens and Brian Shorter."

Towson coach Terry Truax began recruiting Dunbar High's Alexander early and awarded him the only scholarship he had available this season.

It is a natural matchup at a school where local players have been the backbone of the program in recent years.

But Alexander didn't expect to be thrust into the spotlight so soon.

"I wouldn't have minded playing behind Devin," he said. "It was unfortunate what happened to him and surprising to me. I just had to step up my game."

Alexander, a veteran of a high school team that plays before big crowds and in hostile environments, was equal to the assignment.

"Terrance was a good student, and that's one of the reasons we recruited him," said Truax. "He has probably acclimated himself to our system faster than anyone we've ever had. In the third week, he was right on the pulse."

"We did a lot of the same things at Dunbar," said Alexander, the first Poet at Towson since Kurk Lee. "Some of the guard cuts are alike."

The strength of the Tigers' non-conference schedule (Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland, Southern Methodist, Tennessee) also appealed to Alexander, whom Truax said was "under-recruited."

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