Bias II: There'll Be No More 'Wait for Jay'
By Christine Brennan and Donald Huff
That day, June 19, 1986, as family and friends mourned the loss of the legendary Len Bias, hope took flight in the promise of Jay Bias.
"Now we'll have to wait for Jay," said Byron Davis, a spectator at the game.
Yesterday, 4 1/2 years after his brother died a cocaine-induced death, Jay Bias, 20, was shot and killed in the parking lot at Prince George's Plaza following an argument at a jewelry store in the mall. Last night, Jerry Samuel Taylor, 24, surrendered at the Oxon Hill police station, was charged with first-degree murder and was being held without bond.
And the mourning started all over again.
"First Len, now Jay. This is a bad dream," said Clinton Venable, one of Jay Bias's best friends who played basketball alongside him at Northwestern High School and Allegany Commnunity College in Cumberland, Md., and is now a senior playing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "I sure didn't want to hear anything like this."
In all the news reports, he was called "Len Bias's younger brother." Just as he had been every day since Len died.
Less than a year after Len's death, Jay led Northwestern to the Maryland state Class AA (big-school) title. A 6-foot-6 forward, he averaged 21 points per game that year and in the final game, wore sneakers he had marked specially for the occasion. On the back of his left shoe, he had printed "Len." On the back of the right, he had written "Bias."
"If you had to pick one person who's suffered the most," Lonise Bias, the boys' mother, said a year after Len's death, "it has been Jay. We've all suffered the loss. But having to go back to the school where his brother attended. And go back to school with his peers. And then have to play ball on the court his brother played on.
"Then, the first year of Leonard's death, he takes the team to the state championship and has to go out to Cole Field House. That's a lot. People are not always saying kind things."
Jay Bias was a junior that year, and although the team won the state title, he had his problems. Bias was ejected from one game for throwing an elbow, he was involved in another shoving incident in a second game and he was knocked woozy from a punch and taken to a hospital during a fight in a third game.
He admitted his temper sometimes got the best of him on the court.
"I felt a lot of pressure after Len died," Bias said in March 1987. "I think people expected me to do what Len did when he was here. It bothered me a lot and I didn't have the patience to deal with it. I'm better now. I can control myself much better.
"I was also getting sick and tired of always being referred to as Len Bias's brother. I am not Len and I cannot be another Len. For the rest of my life, I will be Jay and I want to be accepted on what I do."
Northwestern Principal Luther Fennell said yesterday that the school offered Jay Bias support during his junior season.
"We tried to give Jay a support system to rely on during his junior year. He played basketball and we won the state championship on the heels of Len's death," Fennell said. "Jay was a fun-loving person. He stayed on track his senior year, nothing major happened and he graduated. I haven't had much contact with him since he left. He may have come by school a few times."
In his senior season, Jay earned All-Met honors and averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds per game for Northwestern, but the team didn't qualify for the state playoffs. Highly recruited, Bias failed to get the necessary 700 on the SAT, which made him ineligible for a Division I scholarship, according to NCAA standards for incoming freshmen. Lonise Bias said her son had a 2.83 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale his senior year.
In August 1988, Jay said he would attend Allegany, a junior college with a strong basketball program.
Jay played there for a year, started at small forward and averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game on a 32-4 team. He left in 1989 to work and consider a four-year college, preferably American University.
"He left here on good terms and he did a good, solid job for us when he was here," said Allegany Coach Bob Kirk.
"He had a great year, played well and went to class," Venable said. "I was graduating and Jay said he was thinking about not returning to Allegany and hopefully going to a Division I school," he said. "He said he wasn't really that interested in playing any pro ball, he said he just wanted to work and get on with his life."
Jay's parents visited Ed Tapscott, then AU's head coach, in the summer of 1989 to chat about Jay transferring.
American's assistant director of admissions Mike Tapscott said Jay Bias's application was not accepted because he did not have enough transferable credits from Allegany.
"Jay applied here in the spring of 1990 but, because he was lacking some credits, we advised him to enroll in the Continuing Education program here at AU," said Tapscott (the brother of the former coach). "This is a program for students who need to strengthen themselves a bit. He could take the few required classes he needed in the summer and this fall and would be ready to become a full-time student in January 1991. We met about four or five times and he indicated he was willing to go that route. His mother said she didn't think she would qualify for financial aid and was willing to pay the necessary tuition.
"This really hurts. Jay seemed to be on the right track. He kept his appointments, he was on time and I was under the impression he was ready to register. I haven't heard from him since this summer."
According to American's records, Bias did register for an algebra class June 28 but did not get a grade. Tapscott said the records did not indicate whether Bias actually attended class or dropped it.
"The computers do not show Bias as having registered for the fall semester," Tapscott said.
"I just talked with him not too long ago," Venable said, "and all of us who used to play together in high school were together this summer playing ball, talking about what we wanted to do. Jay said he planned to go to AU and we told him that was a good choice but maybe he should try to get away, go out of town to school," to get away from the influences that Venable said have led many of his other friends astray.
Venable said he could see that happening to Jay Bias. A guy who loved basketball above all now was losing interest.
"He didn't seem like the same Jay when I was home this summer," he said, "but I just thought it was because he wasn't playing basketball. When you love something as much as he did and suddenly you are not involved anymore, that could change you."
Tapscott said Bias had been working as an assistant manager in the dining facility at the Collington Episcopal Life Center in Mitchellville. An employee at the facility verified Bias did work there but quit about three months ago. Friends outside the Bias home in Landover yesterday also said Bias had been working at an unnamed bank recently, and was thinking about returning to school.
"This is tough on me," Venable said, "because so many of my former high school friends have died or are in jail. . . . I don't know what happened with Jay, I just know this is terrible."