Doctor leads Coppin's rebound

March 01, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

When Rene Doctor was being recruited in 1991 by then-Coppin State basketball coach Doug Robertson, the Tampa, Fla., native agreed to visit the Baltimore campus but expressed a deathly fear of flying.

"I told Coach Robertson the only way I'd make the trip is if he came down to Tampa to get me," the Eagles captain recalled. "There was no way I'd fly by myself."

Doctor's flying phobia now seems amusing since Coppin State rivals have had great difficulty keeping her earthbound this season. The 6-foot-2 senior center has soared for 319 rebounds. Her 13.9 average led the nation until this past week, when she was passed by Tara Sheriff of Jackson State (14.0).

Doctor, who also leads her team in scoring with a 16.0 average, is the main reason Coppin State believes it can overcome its No. 4 seed and win the MEAC tournament starting today at Morgan State, where the Eagles begin their title quest against fifth-seeded South Carolina State.

"There's no reason we can't win it," said Doctor. "Except for North Carolina A&T, we've beaten everyone in our conference, even [top-ranked] Florida A&M. If we play with intensity, we can win this thing."

After finishing a disappointing 6-21 last season, the Eagles posted a 13-13 record this year, including a 10-6 mark against MEAC rivals. Coach Tori Harrison said the turnabout is a result of more depth, and the backcourt play of junior college transfers Natasha Parks and Delora Walker. But, Harrison quickly adds, the biggest difference is Doctor's inspired play.

"I've coached Rene since her sophomore year," said Harrison, the 1983 Baltimore Sun Player of the Year at Towson Catholic and standout at Louisiana Tech. "She was on a senior-oriented team, and really didn't assert herself. But her self-confidence has really grown. She's become our unquestioned leader, on and off the floor, and the other players have followed her example."

Doctor gives Harrison major credit for transforming her from an ordinary player into an all-conference choice.

"I just find it's easier to relate to a woman coach," said Doctor, who played her freshman season under Robertson. "Coach Harrison is tall like myself, and also played the low post. She could explain things she experienced herself, and it built my confidence."

It's amazing how far Doctor has come after not playing organized basketball until her senior year at Pasco High, near Tampa.

"I really didn't like basketball," she said. "My favorite sports were softball and track. But because of my height, people kept after me to try basketball, and when my best friend joined the team, I decided to try it."

Already offered several scholarships for her high academic standing (she's now a dean's list student in marketing), Doctor was surprised how many colleges contacted her after she averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds in her lone prep season. "I didn't want to go too far from home, so I looked into Tampa University, Florida A&M and Albany [Ga.] State," she recalled.

But a questionnaire she received from Coppin State piqued her curiosity. After Robertson convinced her to fly to Baltimore, Doctor found the inner-city campus and prospective teammates a perfect fit.

Now Doctor is flying solo, and just might direct the Eagles to a perfect landing at the end of the MEAC tournament.

DOCTOR'S STATISTICS

Year .. .. G .. Reb. .. Pts.

. . 28 .. 3.9 ... 1.5

. . 29 .. 8.4 ... 7.2

. . 22 .. 9.6 .. 11.0

. . 23 . 13.9 .. 16.0

Totals . 102 .. 8.7 ... 8.4

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