BayRunners giving locals a shot; Coach sees team relying on Lee, ex-Towson star


Two months before the Baltimore BayRunners play their first game in the inaugural season of the International Basketball Association, coach Herb Brown is already clear about at least one part of his strategy -- get the ball to Kurk Lee.

Lee, a former Towson State and Dunbar star, is one of the first six players -- five with Baltimore connections -- signed by the BayRunners and introduced yesterday.

The most heralded of the six, Lee, a 6-foot-3 guard, returns to the area after spending his last three playing years for TeamWARE ToPo in Helsinki, Finland. Lee, 32, led the Tigers to an NCAA tournament appearance in 1990, averaging 27.7 points.

During a news conference, Brown pointed to another guard, former University of Miami player Kevin Norris, as the one responsible for taking care of Lee.

"He [Norris] is sitting next to Kurk, because he has got to get Kurk the ball," Brown said. "And Kevin is sitting next to Mike Thomas [from Coppin State], because he has to get Kevin the ball to get to Kurk.

"Kurk played for a great coach at Towson and a guy that I'm proud to have as my assistant in Coach [Terry] Truax," Brown added.

Norris, 24, a Lake Clifton alumnus, started a school-record 108 consecutive games for the Hurricanes from 1994 to 1998, and Thomas, 24, played at Coppin from 1991 to 1995.

Guard Phil Chenier Jr., out of Wilde Lake High and Howard University, forward Sean Tyson (Dunbar and Clemson) and guard Curt Smith (Washington's Coolidge High and Drake) round out the signees. Tyson, 30, and Smith, 24, were unable to attend the news conference.

"It is very important to have area players," Brown said. "But it is not important if they can't play. But they can play. We tried to get guys who have played in the last three or four years. We're required to keep one rookie [and] three players with under four years' experience. Then, we go from there."

Thomas, eighth all-time in rebounds (533) at Coppin, was second in blocks for a season (77) as a senior.

Chenier, 25, averaged 16 points in four years at Howard and is the son of the former Baltimore and Washington Bullets guard.

"It is a blessing for me to have the opportunity to play in this area," Chenier said. "For me, it holds an even more special meaning, because this is where my father started his career, in the same building [Baltimore Arena] that I will be starting mine."

The BayRunners drafted 28 players but will not get every one they want. Baltimore will have a 24-man roster on the first day of camp on Nov. 4.

"We went through a player pool," Brown said. "We were able to pinpoint guys who we thought we would want on our team. You never know if another team is going to want that player, so you have to have a backup player. We drafted 28 players, and we have a list on the blackboard of another 40."

The season opener is Nov. 26 against the Trenton Shooting Stars.

Pub Date: 9/16/99

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