Lack of injuries was an overlooked blessing in Coppin State's run to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title and NCAA tournament last year. Among the Eagles' first six players, a thigh injury that caused point guard Larry Yarbray to miss two games was the only bad ailment to hit Fang Mitchell's gang.
Times change. Mitchell was hoping to use the past five weeks to blend his accomplished veterans with the best crop of newcomers he has ever brought to Baltimore, but too many visits to the emergency room by his veterans slowed that plan.
"It has been a very bad month for us," Mitchell said. "We lost valuable time regarding the chemistry and makeup of this team. We have a complex system, and there are a lot of things for our new kids to remember offensively and defensively. They haven't had the luxury of having some of our older players around to help them."
Senior Larry McCollum was supposed to start at center for Coppin for the fourth straight year, but he underwent two operations in the offseason to repair a hand injury and has yet to practice.
Yarbray, a junior and starter at the point since he was a freshman, suffered a severe ankle sprain in one of the Eagles' first workouts, missed two weeks of practice and did not play in Friday's 93-87 exhibition win over a Czech team.
In addition, MEAC Player of the Year Larry Stewart missed a week with tendinitis in his right ankle.
Stewart is the one holdover who stands to gain the most from a fine recruiting class. A 6-foot-8, 220-pound leaper, Stewart has spent the last two years playing power forward, but Mitchell ideally would like to showcase him at small forward. That spot is open because of the departure of three-year starter Phil Booth.
Darren Woods, a 6-7, 190-pound junior who played seven minutes a game last year, is getting a long look at power forward, but with McCollum absent and 6-7 Joe Hammond taking his place, Mitchell isn't letting Stewart stray too far from the basket.
Adding to Coppin's inside options are Dennis Brown, a 6-5 sophomore from Camden, N.J., who made four of five shots against the Czechs, and 6-10 sophomore Galen Howard.
With Yarbray absent, Mitchell has been tinkering with Reggie Isaac at the point. That's the same Isaac who led the Eagles in scoring the last two years.
Nov. 24 -- at Tulsa, 8:30
Dec. 1 -- at New Mexico State, 9:30
Dec. 2 -- at Texas-El Paso, 4:30
Dec. 8 -- UMBC, 7:30
Dec. 10 -- at Oklahoma, 7:35
Dec. 15 -- Charleston, 7:30
Dec. 20 -- at Golden Panther Tourney
vs. Clemson, 6:30
Dec. 21 -- at Golden Panther Tourney, TBA
Dec. 28 -- at Toledo Tourney
vs. Mid. Tenn. State, 6:30Dec. 29 -- at Toledo Tourney, TBA
Jan. 3 -- at S.C. State, 8
Jan. 6 -- at New Orleans, 8:35
Jan. 9 -- N.C. A&T, 7:30
Jan. 14 -- UMES, 7:30
Jan. 19 -- Florida A&M, 7:30
Jan. 21 -- Bethune-Cookman, 7:30
Jan. 24 -- Morgan State, 7:30
Jan. 26 -- at Howard, 8
Jan. 29 -- at Delaware State, 8
Feb. 2 -- Howard, 7:30
Feb. 4 -- at Morgan State, 8
Feb. 6 -- Delaware State, 7:30
Feb. 9 -- at Florida A&M, 7:30
Feb. 11 -- at Bethune-Cookman, 8
Feb. 14 -- S.C. State, 7:30
Feb. 20 -- at N.C. A&T, 8
Feb. 23 -- at UMES, 4
Feb. 28 -- at MEAC Tourney in Norfolk, TBA
COPPIN STATE AT A GLANCE
* Nickname: Eagles.
* Coach: Ron "Fang" Mitchell.
* 1989-90 record: 26-7.
* Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic.
* Returnees: Larry Stewart, 6-8, Sr., F (18.7 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 64.5 fg%); Reggie Isaac, 6-3, Sr., G (21.2 ppg); Larry Yarbray, 6-0, Jr., G (8.9 ppg, 7.3 apg); Larry McCollum, 6-9, Sr., C (4.8 rpg); Michael Johnson, 6-2, So., G; Darren Woods, 6-6, Jr., F; Joe Hammond, 6-7, Sr., F-C.
* Newcomers: Marcus Hammond, 6-6, Jr., F (sat out last year); Galen Howard, 6-9, So., C (sat out last year as Prop. 48); Lennox Brown, 6-7, Fr., F; Dennis Brown, 6-5, So. G; James Mazyck, 6-6, Fr., G-F; Tariq Saunders, 6-6, Fr., F; Paul Roberson, 6-3, Fr., G.
* Strengths: Experience. McCollum is four-year starter and Stewart, Isaac and Yarbray are three-year starters. New talent makes Eagles deeper than ever, and as always, they are able to play at any tempo.
* Weaknesses: Graduation of Phil Booth, Mitchell's main whipping boy who did behind-the-scenes work. Veterans are beat up right now, and Eagles play 10 of first 12 games on road against likes of Oklahoma and Clemson.