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Mother recalls loss of sons at Martin Luther King Jr. banquet

January 14, 2001

Mother recalls loss of sons at Martin Luther King Jr. banquet



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Lonise BiasMARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Basketball was the avenue that led her son to fame, but Lonise Bias is not always impressed with sports.

While the top scorer for a basketball team receives all the accolades, perhaps a student that shows great promise in dancing is shunned, said Bias, mother of the late Len Bias, a former basketball star.

It cannot be that way, Bias said, insisting that the country needs to do all it can to reach out to youths to help them find their way in life.

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Ignoring them leaves them vulnerable in a world full of hatred, racism and substance abuse, said Bias, who spoke at the 2001 Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Banquet at the Holiday Inn Sunday night in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The banquet is held every year in memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

"We must change our approach in adapting to their needs," said Bias.

Bias has watched tragedy strike not once, but twice, in her family.

In 1986, Maryland forward Len Bias, Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, was taken by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA draft. Two days later he collapsed in a university dorm room. Traces of cocaine were found in his urine.

Four years later, Bias' brother Jay, who also played basketball, was shot to death in a drive-by shooting at a mall in Prince George's County, Md.

Since then, Bias has worked as an inspirational speaker, spreading her word about how she believes the county can spare other youths from a sometimes destructive society.

She has spoke to lawmakers, community and church organizations, and has appeared on ESPN's Close Up with Roy Firestone, Sally Jesse Rafael and the CBS Morning News.

"The seeds that grew out of desperation are precious seeds," Bias said.

Bias said it is hard to believe the situations and life challenges youths are being faced with today at such a tender age. She said some of the issues youth are faced with at 10- or 15-years-old - such as sex or alcohol use - are just beginning to be fully understood by adults twice their age.

More adults need to be role models for those children to help them "break up the dimensions" and understand life's lessons, Bias said.

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