Eagle has landed Terquin Mott: His future once up in air, the complex junior has solidly planted himself on the court and in the classroom at Coppin.

February 13, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Coppin State's Terquin Mott is 230 pounds of space-eating, rim-bending contradiction.

How do you explain an athlete with a menacing glare and raw power who lists his favorite book as "Gone With the Wind"? Somebody with an appetite for destruction on a basketball court whose favorite foods are fruits? Somebody who leads the nation in field-goal percentage, but would rather do defensive drills?

And, most intriguing, someone with a troubled past who majors in criminal justice and made the national dean's list.

"He's pretty complex," said Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell.

Teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference have gotten to know Mott all too well, and it has nothing to do with his preferences in books and foods or his proficiency in the classroom. He has been named MEAC Player of the Week three times, and he's just scratching the surface.

Despite being held to 11 points last night, he leads the Eagles in scoring at 20.5 points per game, making 68.6 percent of his shots, and is second in rebounding at 6.9. He can go strong to the basket or back off and hit the jumper.

Ask UMES coach Jeff Menday about the Philadelphia native, who has gone 21-for-27 from the field and scored 51 in two games against the Fighting Hawks. "We don't have anybody to defend that," Menday said.

"He plays with Division I intensity. He can make a rebound and get all the way down the floor and post up before most people even get down the floor."

Morgan State coach Chris Fuller voted Mott, 22, the conference's preseason Player of the Year based mostly on what he had heard about the 6-foot-8 junior center.

"He's a great athlete, an intimidating player," said Fuller, whose squad has given up 46 points to Mott in two games. "I sure wouldn't kick him off my squad."

Mott hasn't always felt this welcome.

His collegiate career began at La Salle, where he started 24 games in two seasons and had a couple of glorious moments. There were the 23 points and 12 rebounds against Villanova and the basket at the buzzer that knocked off Detroit Mercy. But he also was suspended for the first four games of his sophomore year after being accused of burglarizing a dormitory room -- he later was cleared of the charges -- and the incident hastened his exit.

La Salle coach Speedy Morris said he believed Mott made a wise decision to transfer. "Sometimes, it's better for someone to get a new start," he said.

Mott doesn't seem comfortable talking about his past, which included a stay at Glen Mills, a school in Pennsylvania that an admissions officer said is for juvenile delinquents. Even the present doesn't offer as much relief as one would expect for someone with his vast skills on the court and a 4.0 grade-point average off it.

His mother, Wanda, has cancer, and Mott only recently became aware of how little time she has left. "The doctor said she's lucky to be living now, but she's been telling us she's doing good because she doesn't want us to worry," Mott said.

He requested some time off before the season, saying he wasn't mentally ready to play. "The littlest thing would happen, and I'd get ticked off and frustrated," said Mott, who, as a high school junior, led Glen Mills to the Pennsylvania Class 4A state championship. "[Mitchell] sat down and talked to me, and as practice went on, he got counseling for me."

Mott came off the bench for the first month of the season. He scored 18 against Lincoln in his Coppin debut, then had 23 on 10-for-12 shooting against West Virginia State. He later would erupt for 37 points against Delaware State and 29 against Ohio.

By now, he was working just as hard in practice as during games, earning him the chance to start.

"Terq wasn't as focused before as he is now," Mitchell said. "He's overcome those problems, and he's just understanding how important basketball might be to him. He's doing the things we ask of him right now. In today's society, it sometimes takes young people a little longer to gain your respect and to trust what you're saying."

Mitchell, with his Philadelphia background, knew about Mott long before they were united at Coppin. He liked the potential, and respected the recommendation that came from former Eagle and one-time Washington Bullet Larry Stewart.

"I was told by Larry that he's really not a bad kid," Mitchell said. "And when I look at Terq today, I see the same things Larry sees.

"At Coppin State, if we feel that you need a second chance or a chance to prove who you are, we reach out, especially being an African-American at a historically black school. If we don't reach out, we've got problems. Sometimes, we just need a little more love than what we've been getting. I can't blame Speedy. I just think we all have different methods."

Mott doesn't blame his former coach, either. He said the decision to transfer "was pretty much mutual," even though staying would have kept him closer to his family.

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