As he watched his players go through the motions at the start of practice yesterday, Coppin State basketball coach Fang Mitchell could see that the monotony of playing against each other for a month was starting to take its toll.
"I know they're tired of playing against each other -- our first team has been playing against a lot of inexperienced guys," Mitchell said. "We need a test."
That test will be at 7:30 tonight at the Coppin Center, with relief coming in the form of the Sparta club team from Czechoslovakia. The visitors will be playing their ninth game in a 10-game, 11-night tour of the United States.
The Eagles, the defending champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, are one of four state teams in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I that will be playing exhibition games in the next few days in preparation for next week's start of the regular season. Tomorrow, Loyola is host to the Finland national team (7:30 p.m.) and the University of Maryland Baltimore County will be at home against the Mexican national team (7:35).
On Monday, Mount St. Mary's will play host to the Maryland All-Stars (7:30).
Navy got a jump on the state teams Wednesday, beating the Sparta club, 108-97, at Halsey Field House. It was coach Pete Herrmann's first look at the Midshipmen's new fast-break offense and pressure defense, and he liked what Navy accomplished against an experienced team.
"I think you're going to enjoy what you see this year," said Herrmann, whose team won five games last season. "We're going to shoot the ball, and we're going to put on as much pressure as we can on defense. The kids are really excited about it."
At Coppin, Mitchell has no idea what to expect as the MEAC favorites play Sparta. The Eagles will enter the game without starting point guard Larry Yarbray (ankle injury) and starting center Larry McCollum (recovering from finger surgery).
"There's a lot of learning to be done, and this game will help," Mitchell said. "To get to their potential, the players will have to get to the learning process of playing in game situations."
Morgan State will start the regular season for the state Division I schools next Friday against Providence in the Fleet Basketball tournament in Providence, R.I.
Seven state schools will play Nov. 24, with Coppin on the road against Tulsa; Navy at Fordham; Towson State, the defending East Coast Conference champion, at Dayton; Mount St. Mary's at Xavier; UMBC at Clemson; Loyola at home against George Washington; and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore at home against St. Francis (N.Y.).
Maryland will start its season at home Nov. 26 against Towson State.
State Division I
Tonight -- Sparta (Czechoslovakia), 7:30 p.m.
Tomorrow -- Finland National Team, 7:30 p.m.
Mount St. Mary's
Monday -- Maryland All-Stars, 7:30 p.m.
Tomorrow -- Mexican National Team, 7:35 p.m.