~TC Whether he's hitting a transition jumper, denying his man the ball or trading barbs with his coach, Scooter Alexander's quickness will sting.
"I was getting on Scooter a while back," Towson State coach Terry Truax said. "I told him, 'I hope I live long enough to see you reach your defensive potential.' He came right back and told me that maybe I'll be .500 by then."
Alexander is a better defender than Truax lets on, and with a 10-year record of 144-147 at Towson State, the coach has closed to within three wins of .500. If they come at the Big South Conference tournament this weekend, the Tigers will have their fourth straight conference title and third trip to the NCAAs. Much of that success is due to Baltimoreans in the backcourt, the latest being Alexander.
The Tigers and Truax, 25-60 in his first three years, were limping along in the East Coast Conference until Marty Johnson (Cardinal Gibbons) transferred home from Richmond and led them to their first conference finals, in 1987 and '88. Kurk Lee (Dunbar) was the star on the 1990 team that got Towson State its first appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament, and Terrance Jacobs (Southern) was the Player of the Year last season, when the Tigers made it three straight ECC titles.
Devin Boyd (Walbrook) is Towson State's all-time leading scorer with 1,980 points, but he figures he's just renting the distinction until 1995. Alexander, The Baltimore Sun Player of the Year for Dunbar High two years ago, already has 943 career points, and his scoring will increase when Boyd moves on after this season.
"People are paying attention to Devin," Alexander said, "but it's hard not to notice me, too."
Alexander, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound athlete who's become nearly automatic shooting a 15-footer off the dribble, made Towson State's first trip through the Big South enjoyable. He's averaging 19.2 points on 51.1 percent shooting -- tops among conference guards -- and leads the Tigers in assists (3.0), is second in steals (2.0) and third in rebounds (4.7). The all-conference team will be announced tomorrow, and there should be a place on it for Alexander.
Just as Lee and Boyd were one of the best guard combinations to blow through the ECC, Boyd and Alexander have led Towson State (18-8) to a nine-game win streak and the No. 1 seed in the Tigers' first Big South tournament. In tomorrow's quarterfinals, the Tigers will meet either eighth-seeded Winthrop or ninth-seeded UNC-Asheville, who meet in tonight's preliminary game at the North Charleston (S.C.) Coliseum.
The Boyd-Alexander combination was supposed to happen last year, but Boyd broke an elbow in the season opener, and Alexander had to take over at point guard.
He was the shooting guard at Dunbar, but Poets coach Pete Pompey has called him "the best all-around player I've ever coached," and Alexander handled the adjustment. He averaged 14.8 points and 2.5 assists, earning ECC Rookie of the Year honors.
"Once I knew what I had to do, I relaxed and got on track, but I'm glad Devin's back," Alexander said. "We know each other's game in and out. I know when he's going to shoot or pass, and he knows when I'm going to shoot or pass. Having him around has taken pressure off of me."
Boyd got a Big South-record 46 points Saturday against UMBC, but Alexander has been nearly as dominant during the winning streak. He's averaged 22.8 points in the pst six games, and stopped several of the conference's better guards with his defensive work.
"Scooter doesn't think defense, but when he's in a defensive stance, he's as good as anyone I've ever had," Truax admitted. "When we recruited him, we liked his ability to free himself, both in the open court and traffic, and I've never had a player pick up the system quicker than Scooter did last year."
More than anything, Truax marvels at Alexander's concentration when he's shooting. It's as if there's no one else there, just Scooter, the ball and the basket. "Coach has always said I have a knack for freeing myself totally for a shot," Alexander said. "In practice, I can barely buy a shot, but in a game, I just seem to focus in more."
G=.. .. ....... ........ Pts./..... FG ...... Ast./ ... Reb./
Season .... Pts. ..... game ... percent ... game .... game
1991-92 ... 443 ...... 14.8 ..... 42.3 ..... 2.5 .... 4.4
1992-93 ... 500 ...... 19.2 ..... 51.1 ..... 3.0 .... 4.7
Totals .... 943 ...... 16.8 ..... 46.6 ..... 2.8 .... 4.5