Mott sees reversal as a step forward Basketball: His sister's advice against going to the NBA has led the Coppin State star to rededicate himself to the game and to academics.

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

Coppin State's Terquin Mott said his decision in May to declare for the NBA draft was more a product of "financial stress" than a burning desire to play professional basketball.

It also had a lot to do with guilt.

"My sister [Teresa] was struggling, taking care of my little brothers and taking care of my mom while she was sick. And I just felt like I wasn't doing anything but worrying about myself here. I felt kind of selfish," he said.

"I just didn't want to be in school anymore. I wanted to be home with my family, whether I had to work or do whatever. I decided since I didn't want to be in school, I may as well try to do the best I can."

For Mott, 22, the hulking power forward who two months earlier had been named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's Player of the Year, that meant trying to turn his basketball skills into cash.

Instead, he turned to his sister, who persuaded him to forget the NBA and return for his senior year.

He had been prepared to leave Coppin after one season, closing the books on his pursuit of a degree in criminal justice. But he wasn't prepared for what Teresa would say.

"We had a long talk, and she told me there was really nothing I could do as far as money was concerned. If my mom did it on $4,000 a year, she could do it on her salary," Mott said.

"His degree is the most important thing," Teresa said. "He'll always have something to fall back on. I didn't want him to just rely so much on his talent. That won't always be there."

Cancer took their mother's life earlier this year, leaving Teresa, 26, who works as a health educator for the Montgomery County Health Department in Norristown, Pa., to care for younger brothers Terry and Tamir, both still in high school.

"This is a new life for me, playing the mommy and daddy role," said Teresa, who also works part time for a collection agency. "I have to limit the things I'm used to doing with my money to take care of my brothers. But if my mother did it on the little bit of money she was getting from social services, I can do it.

"I'm trying to be a good role model for them, and I know Terquin is a good role model. They really don't have anybody but us."

At his sister's urging, Mott has focused again on his studies -- after this semester, he'll need nine credits to graduate -- and wreaking havoc in the MEAC.

Mott, 6 feet 8 and 248 pounds, devoured the competition as a junior after transferring from La Salle, averaging 19.0 points and 7.4 rebounds and ranking fifth in the nation in shooting percentage (.638). But he was left with an empty feeling after going 4-for-14 from the field in the conference tournament final, which Coppin lost to South Carolina State.

"I felt inferior," he said. "There's unfinished business here."

There's also a change in Mott that can be seen at practice and in the weight room. It's a dedication, a desire that had been lacking.

"The difference is in his work habits," said assistant coach Derek Brown. "For a few days, he could run faster and work harder than anybody else, but then he would stop for a while. This year, we've found he's been very consistent."

Mott said: "The approach I wanted to have was to get done whatever I had to do, even during the dog days, even on the days I'm tired or cold. Right now, I just want to push through all that."

It's the attitude one would expect from a player rated as the ninth-best power forward in the country by Athlon.

A player who, with his mother's passing, has attained some closure.

"He's definitely much more at peace than he was last year," Brown said.

"If anything," said coach Fang Mitchell, "I see the dedication he's making to be successful, because that's something she always wanted from him, to live a life that maybe she didn't live."

Mitchell said he is relieved to have Mott back, but not because his change of heart may have changed Coppin's fortunes.

"I never put it in the selfishness of, 'I'm losing a great player.' I just think the decision he eventually made will affect his life in a positive way," Mitchell said.

"I felt he was making a mistake, and I gave him the reasons. I think he appreciates the honesty."

Mott already has grown by leaps and bounds. He's emerged from a school for juvenile delinquents in Pennsylvania to become a third-team Academic All-American at a Division I college. And he's showing a softer side that few people knew existed.

"He was going to give up his education and the opportunity to enhance himself, just for the sake of his family. You have to compliment that," Mitchell said.

"I don't like to be like everybody else," Mott said. "The reason I take my classes so serious is because I don't want to be seen like the average student-athlete who needs specific attention and help, the stupid jock. I don't want to be viewed as one of the people who's just here to play basketball and neglects their degree or other aspects of their life. I want to be a well-rounded figure."

By staying at Coppin for another season, he should become a more complete player. He made a positive impression on scouts and NBA executives at a pre-draft camp in Chicago with his strength, quickness, shooting touch and ball-handling skills. If Mott's rebounding improves and he can become a more intimidating factor on defense, Mitchell said he could be a first-round pick in next year's draft.

Thoughts of playing in the NBA still creep into Mott's mind, "but then I just get it away," he said. "I think more about going to law school because, ultimately, I want to help children who came from poverty-stricken neighborhoods like me, who thought there was only one way out. What's really going to make me happy is helping one child so he or she can help someone else.

"I really don't think about the NBA. That's just basketball."

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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