Ed, Larry and Louise Spriggs have proven that patience and a closely knit family can be a winning combination.
Three of the children of James and Barbara Spriggs, of North Brentwood in Prince George's County, play collegiate basketball in the Washington area. Ed, 24, plays for Georgetown University, 20-year-old Larry for Howard University and 22-year-old Louise for the University of the District of Columbia. A fourth Spriggs child, 23-year-old Gregory, chose a different course and is an information specialist at Georgetown University.
Three years ago, Georgetown coach John Thompson spotted Ed Spriggs at a summer pickup league game. Thompson, impressed with Ed's quickness for his height -- 6-foot-9 -- approached him about enrolling at Georgetown.
Spriggs, who never played high school basketball, was flattered by the offer, but turned it down.
"I thought about it very seriously at the time but when I considered the fact that I had no prior experience playing organized ball, I decided against it," Spriggs recalled. He had a job as a platform worker and truck driver and was earning a decent salary at the time, he said.
But a little persistence from Thompson and some serious second thoughts prompted Spriggs to change his mind and accept a scholarship to play basketball for Georgetown.
"Now that I look back, it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made," Spriggs said.
At 22, Spriggs was older than the usual freshman when he entered Georgetown. He said the adjustment from a 40-hours-a-week job to college was not as difficult as he had expected.
"The discipline that I got from working probably prepared me more than anything for the daily routine or practices, games and classes," he said.
According to Thompson, Spriggs showed remarkable improvement from game to game as a freshman last year.
"Bascially, he has very little experience in terms of the game of basketball," said Thompson. "But the thing about Ed is his capacity to learn very rapidly. Of course, there is no substitute for experience but he is so coachable and so smart that he is rapidly improving every game."
At Northwestern High in Prince George's County, Larry Spriggs, Ed's younger brother, did not play basketball until his junior year.Although he made All-Prince George's as a senior, he was hardly recruited. Howard University coach A. B. Williamson was one of the few coaches who showed interest.
"He was a sleeper," said Williamson, who has built a consistently winning team at Howard. "I saw him and liked what I saw. He was young (17) but showed great potential."
Larry decided, however, to attend junior college to improve in basketball and academics, and attended San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Tex.
After a year, he decided to transfer to Howard. "It was Howard or go down there for another year," said the 6-foot-7 jumping jack. "Because of the closeness of my family, I decided to come to Howard where they could come out to see me play. Besides, I felt like I was ready to meet the challenge."
Larry Spriggs' choice has had Howard excited ever since. In his first year there last season, he averaged 15.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, handed out 52 assists, blocked 16 shots and stole the ball 33 times. In addition, he was voted most valuable player for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and first team ALL-MEAC.
Larry has missed several games this season because he broke his foot during the summer, but he has still managed to average 11.5 points a game and a little over six rebounds. Yet he admits his recovery has not been an easy one.
Much of Larry's development as a player can be attributed to Edwin James, an employe of the North Brentwood recreation center during Larry's pre-high school days. James, a minister and a relative of the Spriggs family, worked with the youth during those years.
"Larry really loved basketball. He was very easy to work with because he has a strong desire to excel in the sport," James said. "His family is very supportive and I'm sure that has a lot to do with Larry's success as much as anything."
Louis Spriggs played center for Nothwestern High for three years but decided to put the ball down after graducation.
She landed a job as an assistant manager of a fireplace shop, but that was before a series of events that went like this: Bessie Stockard was named head coach at UDC. She was looking for a center and someone told her abut Louise. At the same time, Louise had been giving serious thought to pursuing a college career. At Stockard's urging, she decided to give college a whirl.
"So far, evertything is working out find," said the 5-foot-11 freshman center. "Right now, I'm undecided about my major but college gives me some options in life. I'm very pleased with my decision."
"The thing that impresses me about Louise is that she is so mature and is always working hard. That has a definite positive effect on some of our younger players," Stockard said.
The success of many of the Spriggses' adjustments and transitions can be attributed to close family ties. At any Georgetown, Howard or UDC game, you're likely to find the family cheering squad, sometimes made up of as many as 11 members including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Barbara Spriggs, a guidance counselor at Fairmont Heights High Shcool in Prince George's County, said that trying to follow all three around to games can sometimes be a problem, but she has worked out a solution.
"If Ed and Larry play on the same night, as they usually do, we go to see Larry and take the TV along so that we can watch Ed. If all three play on the same night, we just split up," she added.
James Spriggs, an engineer at John Adams Elementary School in the District, never played sports but his wife said she used to play basketball and sometimes offers Louise coaching advice.
Warren Brown, an assistant director at the North Brentwood recreation center, said the recent accomplishments of the Spriggses have had a very positive effect on the community where they live, particularly on the youth.
"All the Spriggses are greatly respected in the Brentwood community," he said. "The younger kids really look up to them with a lot of respect. Their accomplishments give the kids something to shoot for."
The neighborhood is excited about the Spriggses' athletic exploits, she said, adding, "My son was telling me the other day that the kids at school (Northwestern High) are emulating the Spriggses when they make certain moves or shots on the court."