Larry Stewart, a dominant inside player, is the two-time Player of the Year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. When teams prepare for Coppin State, however, they stay up late devising schemes to stop the outside shooting of another Philadelphia product, Reggie Isaac.
"When Reggie came to us, he was already a pretty good scorer," Eagles coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said. "He's become a more complete player, but the one area in which he's taken off is his outside shooting. He became a much better jump shooter simply because he put in the time."
Isaac, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, has scored 1,878 points in just three seasons at Coppin State, many of them coming on a picturesque arc from the perimeter. His ability to score points in bunches is one reason scouts from a majority of NBA teams have watched the Eagles this season.
He'll continue to be a source of much attention later this week at the Norfolk Scope, site of the MEAC tournament. Regular-season champion Coppin State, 18-9 overall, opens Thursday against the winner of tomorrow's preliminary between UMES and
Bethune-Cookman. Morgan State gets South Carolina State in another Thursday quarterfinal.
Isaac was the tournament's Most Valuable Player last year, when Coppin State became the first Baltimore team to qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament. He did so despite all sorts of gimmick defenses designed to deny him the ball on the perimeter. They are still an annoyance.
"Even though I'm used to them now, I wish they would ban junk defenses," Isaac said.
Isaac is averaging 24.1 points on 47.3 percent shooting, 43.5 from three-point range, where his 74 attempts led the MEAC. He's second on the team in steals, and goes for 36 minutes a game. The one perplexing aspect of his play this season -- his second straight as a MEAC first-team all-star -- was a dip to 72.2 percent at the free throw line.
He doesn't need much of an opening to get off his jumper. By now he has probably shot a million of them, starting on the playgrounds in southwest Philadelphia. "I can count on one hand the days I don't play basketball in the summer," Isaac said.
Isaac once scored 84 points for Bartram High, but still took a back seat in Philadelphia in 1985-86 to Lionel Simmons and Brian Shorter. He spent the following year at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas, averaging 14.3 points and waiting for admission to Louisiana Tech.
Nearly set to go there, Isaac instead decided to return East and join the talent from the Philadelphia area that was converging on Coppin State.
The 1987-88 team went 13-14 for Mitchell. With Isaac on campus as a transfer and Stewart sitting out the year because of Proposition 48, all felt the program was ready to take off. The next season Isaac averaged 18.2 points as a sophomore, earning second-team all-MEAC honors, and the Eagles went 18-11. Last year Isaac averaged 21.2 and Coppin State was 26-7.
He, Stewart and two Delaware State players -- forward Tom Davis and guard Emanual Davis -- made it four Philadelphia players on the All-MEAC team this year. A management sciences major who expects to get a degree in May, Isaac has grown fond of Baltimore, but he hasn't forgotten his roots.
"That little crew from Philadelphia made Coppin State basketball what it is now," Isaac said. "I didn't even know the name of this place five years ago, but I'm happy the way things turned out."