Len Bias, Maryland's 6-foot-8 artist, poet and basketball forward, yesterday was named to two all-America teams and was named the Atlantic Coast Sportswriters Association ACC player of the year, the latest in a long line of honors for the Terrapins' all-time leading scorer.
Bias, who led the ACC in scoring this season with an average of 22.9 points per game and holds 10 Maryland records, was named both Associated Press and United Press International first-team all-America. He was joined on the AP team by St. John's forward Walter Berry, who was the only unanimous selection and who rivals the Maryland forward as the best all-around player in the country.
Berry has averaged 22.9 points and 11.2 rebounds for the fourth-ranked Redmen, champions in the Big East. Also named to the AP team were Johnny Dawkins of Duke, a Washington, D.C., native who is the leading all-time scorer for the top-ranked Blue Devils and second-leading all-time scorer in the ACC; Kenny Walker of Kentucky, and Steve Alford of Indiana. The UPI team comprises Bias, Berry, Dawkins, Walker and Scott Skiles of Michigan State.
Dell Curry of Virginia Tech was named a second-team all-America by AP and third team by UPI. Navy's David Robinson was a third-team choice by both wire services.
Bias, a general studies major with a minor in interior design, has scored 2,092 points in his career to pass Albert King's school record of 2,058. His honors -- which include being named the AP player of the year in the ACC, announced last week before the league tournament, have come despite an occasionally troubled season for Maryland, which included some doubts about an NCAA bid and Bias' one-game suspension for breaking curfew.
But the Terrapins, who lost eight of 10 games at one point, finished the season strongly behind Bias. They had won four of five games before losing to Georgia Tech, 64-62, Saturday in the semifinals of the ACC tournament.
Maryland will meet Pepperdine Friday at 5 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Long Beach, Calif.
"I think if you make all-America, it speaks for itself," Bias said. "All I ever wanted to do was win."
Bias has dominated the ACC with his leaping ability and a rare combination of inventiveness and power inside with a soft touch on his jumper. Against double- and triple-teaming, he led the conference in scoring from start to finish in the regular season.
"Leonard is cocky," Coach Lefty Driesell said. "Maybe confident is a better word, but that's the quality all the great players have. He doesn't think anybody can stop him."
A sometimes surly, argumentative presence on the court, Bias has on occasion been accused of having an attitude problem. But that has been more a result of frustration with Maryland's struggles and with the incessant gang-up defenses he has faced. He has become more reticent with the media this season, shying away from the barrage of attention he has received on the court and off.
"People are always talking about my attitude, but they never put themselves in my place," he said. "A lot of players are doing the same things I am. It's just more magnified because I'm an all-America. And the publicity gets hard. It makes me uncomfortable and I feel bad for my teammates, who are helping us win as much as I am."
Bias is also a gifted artist who aspires to be an interior designer, and he is an amateur verse-writer. He is known on campus for his humor, his ink caricatures and his beat-up 1977 gray Oldsmobile Cutlass, which he bought last year with earnings from a summer job and some help from his father, James.
"It's a Porsche to me," he said recently. "A gray, four-door Porsche."
Bias was born in Washington and raised in a middle-class home in the Prince George's County suburbs. His father is an equipment repairman for Air Products and Chemicals; his mother, Lonise, is a supervisor in customer services for the National Bank of Washington.
Bias began playing basketball in the eighth grade, learning on the courts of the Columbia Park Recreation Center every day after school. He attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, where he was a three-year starter and began experimenting with his uncanny leaping, perfecting a jump shot widely regarded as one of the most technically sound in the college ranks.
"I told Len in the eighth grade that if we handled him correctly, the only limitation would be himself," Northwestern Coach Bob Wagner said. "I told him he could go as far as he wanted."
Bias' talent had not yet fully emerged when he was at Northwestern. Although he was heavily recruited, he was not widely pursued by the ACC schools and finally chose the Terrapins over North Carolina State and Oregon State, among others. But, from a freshman averaging 7.2 points a game, he quickly developed into one of the most dangerous offensive players in the nation.
"I think he's the best player in the country inside and outside, even though he didn't get the Wooden Award which went to Berry ," Driesell said. "I just don't think there's a better all-around player, and everything he gets he deserves. . . . I think the reason he did not get the Wooden Award is that Berry's team has a better record. That has probably hurt him."
That makes the presence of both Maryland (18-13) and St. John's (30-2) in the NCAA West regional an intriguing one. Should both teams win their first- and second-round games in Long Beach, Berry and Bias would meet in Houston in the round of 16.
"I don't really think about that stuff," Bias said. "I just want to get as far in the NCAAs as we can."