With 2:55 remaining in the last period of the basketball game, No. 33 dunked the ball backward into the net. The crowd cheered as though he had sunk the winning shot.
James (Jay) Bias slapped a few hands and raced across the court with his teammates in a game friends said he came to play for his brother.
The crowd of about 70 was average for a summer league game. But in the audience, friends and fans of Bias respectfully watched the solemn young man score 20 points last night as the Northwestern Wildcats defeated the Paint Branch Panthers, 72-51.
Jay Bias learned early yesterday that his 22-year-old brother Len Bias, an All-American at the University of Maryland who on Tuesday was the top college player drafted by the Boston Celtics, had died of cardiac arrest. Today Jay Bias turns 16.
"He wanted to do it play last night for his brother. He told everybody that," said Darren Cauley, 19, a classmate, who spent yesterday comforting Jay. "Every game will go to his brother."
Other friends who watched the game at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring said playing last night was a kind of therapy for Jay -- a way to relieve his emotions without tears. Last night the 6-foot-1 forward appeared tired and drawn, his friends said, his eyes puffy from a day of crying.
"I told him you've got to get the grief off your chest," Byron Dixon, 20, said as he sat in the bleachers and cradled his head in his hands.
Bias bears a remarkable resemblance to his older brother and also shows promise as a professional basketball player, according to his coach.
"At this stage Jay is a more rounded player. He can run, he can dribble, he can dunk. Leonard was more of a standup player, an insider at this point," said Robert W. Wagner, head basketball coach at Northwestern, who has coached both brothers.
Last night friends and fans said they were deeply saddened by Len Bias' death and, they said, they will look to Jay to take his place.
"He was the first player in the neighborhood" to make the pros, Dixon said. "Now we'll have to wait for Jay."
As the crowd exited last night slapping backs and congratulating the players for a game well won, Wagner said of Jay Bias: "He feels good right now. He'll remember tonight when he has to go to sleep."