One of the reasons Coppin State jumped at the chance to play in the National Invitation Tournament was that three seniors deserved a better finish than an upset loss to Florida A&M at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament.
Without Larry Stewart, Reggie Isaac and Larry McCollum, the Eagles wouldn't have become a quality Division I program in such a short time. They wouldn't have gained the visibility required to gain the attention of the NIT, and they wouldn't be playing a first-round game at Southwest Missouri State tonight.
In just three seasons, Stewart, the two-time MEAC Player of the Year, has amassed 1,804 points and 1,042 rebounds. For his career, he's a 64.6 percent shooter, with 147 blocks. The Baltimore area hasn't seen as consistent an inside player since the mid-1970s.
Isaac has dealt with a shooting slump since January, but the 6-foot-3 guard is still Coppin State's all-time leading scorer, with 1,923 points, again in just three seasons.
McCollum, a four-year starter at center, has 914 points and 641 rebounds for his career. He was one of the first big blocks, figuratively and literally, in the building job undertaken by coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell. Coppin State was 13-14 when McCollum was a freshman, and since has gone 18-11, 26-7 and 19-10.
Needless to say, Mitchell wasn't waiting for a telephone call during last week's idle hours. He's busy recruiting, even though there is some help on campus. Galen Howard, a 6-10 sophomore, has yet to play a game for the Eagles, and Lennox Brown, a 6-7 freshman, also red-shirted this year. Transfer Coleman Scott, 6-8, is also untested at the Eagles' level.
* Both of the high jump champions at the NCAA Division I track and field gathering hailed from Maryland. George Mason's Tony Barton, a senior from Milford Mill, topped 7-6 1/2 to win the men's title. The women's went to Arizona's Tonya Hughes, a freshman from Great Mills in St. Mary's County who went over 6-2.
Mount St. Mary's Peter Rono was second in the men's mile, running 3:58.19. He has lost two NCAA titles by a combined .11 seconds.
Frostburg State's Jermaine McDougal, a sophomore from Edgewood, placed fourth in the -- at the Division III championships. Debbie Smuda, a sophomore from Chesapeake-Anne Arundel, became Widener's first-ever women's All-American in the sport with a fifth in the triple jump.
At the national junior college championships, Essex's Rachel Doering placed second in the high jump. She's a sophomore from Perry Hall.
* The NCAA wrestling tournament begins a three-day run at the University of Iowa today. Maryland has five qualifiers, Navy four.
The Terps had two ACC champions, senior Tom Miller (142 pounds), and Kevin Brown (190), a sophomore from Poly. Qualifying as ACC runners-up were seniors Dan McIntyre (118), Matt Caro (158) and Mike Caro (177). The Caro brothers are from Edinboro, Pa.
For Navy, junior Mark Smith (126) and senior Brett Bourne (heavyweight) repeated as EIWA champs. Qualifying by virtue of third-place finishes at the Easterns were freshman Jeff Stepanic (118) and senior Steve Cantrell (177).
Sophomore Dontae Smith (118) is Morgan State's lone qualifier.
* Think there might be some portable TVs at the Towson Center tomorrow night? Towson State fans are interested in the NCAA basketball game against Dayton, but the Tigers' gymnastics meet deserves a crowd.
The 7 p.m. contest against Vermont and Northeastern is the last at the Towson Center for seniors Tandy Knight, Anne Sugden and Carri Scott. Knight, from Takoma Park, is the Tigers' all-time scoring leader. Sugden, from Old Mill, is No. 3 all-time, and Scott No. 7.
All three are three-time ECAC selections, and will try to make it four straight March 23 at Pitt. The Tigers' postseason chances were brightened considerably by the return of junior Wendy Weaver, the ECAC all-around champ in 1990. Weaver came back quicker than expected from a shoulder injury.
* Dave Possinger is job-hunting again.
Possinger played at Towson State, and in the early 1970s coached at Sparrows Point High. He then went to Division III Rhode Island College, turned St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) into an NAIA power, and spent a year at Division I Western Carolina. He left there to take a CBA job in Omaha, but left before the start of the 1989-90 season after a change in ownership.
Possinger landed last fall at Northern Montana, but resigned last week over differences with the athletic director, who wanted and got the men's job.