Coppin's Singletary hits homer in 'other' sport Clutch guard scores 22, but sees baseball future

March 15, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- It's a sport that's not even the first love of Coppin State guard Danny Singletary. If he had it his way, he'd be patrolling the outfield for the baseball team, where he hit .404 last season on his way to earning All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors.

"Baseball's my favorite sport, there's no doubt," said Singletary, who was wooed last year by the Kansas City Royals before breaking his wrist. "I've always had a love for baseball and a lot of success. I don't think I can go anywhere in basketball."

But when Coppin State went up against a South Carolina team with three of the best guards in America, it was Singletary -- participating in his "hobby" -- who stood out as the best backcourt player on the court. Singletary scored a game-high 22 points -- 18 coming in the second half -- in the 78-65 first-round win that shocked the college basketball world.

Not only did Singletary score one clutch basket after another in the second half when he hit six of eight shots, but he also was so aggressive on defense that South Carolina All-SEC point guard Melvin Watson was never able to get his team into its offense.

"[Singletary] had a great game," said Watson, who had 13 points, five assists and six turnovers. "He is quick, made big baskets for them, ran the team and got the ball where it needed to go. I was disappointed on how I played, and he is part of the reason why. I got whipped."

Singletary -- nicknamed "Las Vegas" by his teammates for his gambling style -- has been doing a lot of whipping of late. The 6-foot left-handed point guard had not led the team in scoring during the entire regular season, but has now done so in three of four postseason games. It was Singletary's 29 points that helped bail out Coppin in a first-round MEAC game against Maryland-Eastern Shore when the Eagles fell behind by 19 points.

"He's a carefree individual and loves the challenge," said Coppin coach Fang Mitchell. "It's a situation where if someone is going to step up, it's going to be Danny Singletary. He was so large for us in the MEAC tournament. And all he's doing is continuing."

That's tremendous praise from a coach who had no idea what he was getting when Singletary came to Coppin two years ago on a baseball scholarship. A native of Paterson, N.J., where he lives down the street from Villanova star freshmen Tim Thomas, Singletary transferred to Coppin from Ohio Valley College, an NAIA school in Parkersburg, W.Va., that was the only place to offer him a baseball scholarship when he came out of high school.

"When I came up here for baseball, I heard Coppin had a good basketball team," Singletary said. "In my first meeting [with Mitchell], he told me that he already had his team, and I told him I understood. He told me to come out to practice, and we'll see."

At Ohio Valley, Singletary joined the basketball team as a walk-on his freshman year. At the end of his second year, he was named to the National Small College Athletic Association All-America team after leading the nation in scoring with a 27.6 average.

Singletary, who comes off the bench so that he can get a feel for the flow of a game, put on a scoring exhibition yesterday. His biggest shot came with 1: 45 left when, after dribbling away the shot clock, he launched a three-pointer from deep in the right corner that hit all net just before the buzzer. That basket gave the Eagles a 70-59 lead, and sent the celebration into full swing.

"That shot felt good when I let it go, and from there it seemed like they lost all their confidence," Singletary said. "At the end when I saw everybody cheering, I started feeding off the crowd. It felt really good."

And in the end it was Singletary who was pulled before the CBS cameras, just like Thomas was after Villanova's win the day before. For a guy playing his "hobby," it wasn't a bad outing.

"When I walked out at the beginning and looked around the arena, I just said 'wow,' " Singletary said. "This is the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of in my life. This is a great feeling."

Pub Date: 3/15/97

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