By Phil McSween
Six year ago, only one man could light up Ryerson’s basketball court. In just one game, he scored 52 points—an OUA record that stands to this day. The school hasn’t seen a player as good as Alex Beason ever since.
From his success as a star basketball player, Beason has some advice for the Rams who are trying to fill his shoes on the court today—what happens off the floor is just as important.
“At the end of the day, they have to realize life is a totally different ball game,” says Beason. “Kids realize too late that they made the wrong decision.”
Beason left Ryerson in 1995 with fond memories, two basketball records, a mountain of accolades, but no degree. And despite skill, his time as a leader with the Rams was mired in controversy.
Beason’s talent in high school won him an athletic scholarship to South East Missouri State—a school in the United States’ NCAA league. While at home on summer break after his first year of university, Beason and several friends were caught trying to rob a jewellery store in Scarborough. In August, 1992, Beason was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. He lost his scholarship and faced the Collins Bay penitentiary in Kingston, Ont.
Beason’s downfall became public knowledge and caught the attention of then-Rams’ assistant men’s coach, Richard Dean. The coach gave him a second chance at Ryerson, he hasn’t wavered.
He now own and operates Vibe, a hip-hop clothing store located off campus just a few doors north of Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street. The shop caters to the urban set and aims to outfit folks in the coolest street wear.
Beason, who towers over most of his clientele, enjoys being an entrepreneur. But his main interest lies beyond the basketball court. He and brother Reggie produce reggae records under their own label, Peer Pressure Records.
His dreams of making it in the music industry are vastly different than the events that put him in a Rams uniform.
Beason and his family emigrated to Toronto from jamaica when he was a toddler. Although he didn’t pick up a basketball until he was 15, he proved to be a neutral.
After a successful high school career at Bathurst Heights, Beason headed to the U.S. to begin what started out as a fruitful career there. But it was cut short by his armed robbery conviction. With his life in a steady downfall. Dean, who now coaches the women’s basketball team, came to his rescue. While he was the basketball coach at Bathurst Heights during Beason’s career there, Dean watched American schools recruit the talented player. With Dean’s help and the support of his family, Beason was paroled after serving one year behind bars.
He came to Ryerson in 1993 and enrolled in the general arts program, but basketball remained his calling card.
His recruiter, Dean, was instantly rewarded for his show of faith. Beason sparkled in leading Ryerson to its first-ever playoff berth in the spring of 1994.
In 12 games during the 1993-94 season, Beason averaged 33.4 points per game. That year he played the record-setting 52 point game versus Laurentian. Ryerson head coach Terry Haggerty watched Beason run circles around his opponents for two years. Action photos of Beason wearing his trademark No. 45 jersey are displayed proudly in Haggerty’s office.
“Alex was a tremendous scorer and rebounder for for those two years,” Haggerty recalls. “Alex had a strong personality and he was a very intense person.”
Although the Rams never captured a national crown, Beason has fond memories of his time at the school.
“The thing I remember the most was our last game when we played U of T and lost. There were like 60 kids from junior school there cheering us. That was my best feeling,” Beason said. “The staff and people at Ryerson were very receptive and it was fun just being around that environment.”
After leaving Ryerson at the end of the 1995 season, he played professional basketball for three seasons in Europe. His itinerary included stops in England, Italy and Spain.
While in Spain, Beason developed a painful foot condition in which the arch becomes inflamed. In Beason’s case, the pain was so intense in both feet that it ended his competitive career.
Beason still loves basketball—his eyes light up every time the subject is broached. His exposure to the European game gave him ideas on how Canada’s program could be improved. Beason said Canadian coaches need to stress key fundamentals such as passing and shooting—too many young players try to impress with flashy dunks.
He said Canada should follow the example of European coaches by recruiting larger players to fill the skilled positions.
“Here, we’re undersized. In Europe, they have guys that are 6 foot6, 6 foot 7 playing guard who can handle the call,” Beason said. “Those are the type of guys we need on the national program. We have to go big. We can’t go small. Even if our small guys have more skill, the European guys have more skills, the European guards still have the skill and a size advantage.”
Beason has worked hard for his success but know there is still a long way to go. He estimates that he spend about 80 per cent of his time managing Vibe and the other 20 per cent working on records in Jamaica. He would love to reverse that ratio. In a perfect world, Beason said he’d close the store and become a full-time producer. While he still needs a couple of business credits to graduate with a Ryerson degree, Beason said returning to school is not a top priority at the moment.
“I don’t know if I’m going to go back,” he said. “If this music thing takes off, I’m going to be in Jamaica on the beach.”