Final chapter leaves Mott with empty feeling 'Unfinished business' changes for Coppin senior who passed up the NBA

March 17, 1997|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- Consolation came hard to Coppin State senior Terquin Mott. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound center sat unsmiling in the locker room, shoes and jerseys strewn around him, and found little comfort in Coppin's hard-fought, 82-81 loss to No. 10 Texas in the second round of the NCAA East Regional.

"Sometimes moral victories are OK," he said. "But this isn't one of those times. I mean, during the season, moral victories are all right. But right now, this is do-or-die. So right now, despite the fact that a lot of guys worked hard, we didn't pull it out. We shouldn't be happy. We're happy with our effort, but we didn't get the job done -- and we could have."

Mott, the team's leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, withdrew from the NBA draft last summer and returned to Coppin for his senior year "because there was unfinished business."

His goals when he came back to school last fall were to earn his degree in criminal justice and win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.

Two weeks ago, Mott saw the Eagles rally twice to win the MEAC title. In this tournament, the Eagles rallied to upset No. 2 seed South Carolina, 78-65, and came back from 13 points down to have a shot at victory in the closing seconds yesterday.

In May, he'll earn his criminal justice degree. But he said he still has that unfinished feeling.

He has it despite having carried his teammates through a crucial seven minutes down the stretch here. From 9: 35 to 2: 44, he scored 10 of his team's 14 points.

"I felt I played a terrible game," said Mott, who fouled out with 52 seconds to play with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals. "There I was sitting on the bench with time running out, and I kept thinking, 'I wish I had known I had four fouls.' But I still thought we were going to win. I thought it right down to the end."

The Eagles had possession with 19.6 seconds to play. They called a timeout to set up a last try, but as Mott watched from the bench, Coppin never got off a shot that reached the basket.

"The really hard part is, yes, I did reach the original goals I'd set," Mott said. "But once I got here and saw I could play with any team in the tournament, that we were as good as any of them

"You know, when you're watching the NCAA tournament on television, it looks different. The teams look different, better somehow.

"And the teams we played here had the experience of having played in the tournament atmosphere before. But look at us, at what we did. We're just as good as those teams, and we could have won. When I look back, that's what I'll remember, that we could have been in the Sweet 16."

Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said Mott won't be so hard on himself later on.

"He didn't have the kind of year he was looking for," said Mitchell. "But he did a tremendous job for us. We wouldn't have been here without him, and he put out a tremendous effort here. Those fouls came so fast at the end, and he was so concentrated on trying to make something good happen.

"This feeling he has now is what happens when you get so close, you can feel yourself winning -- and then you have to taste defeat. It's a terrible pill to swallow."

An hour after the game, Mott was still thinking about what could have been. But then, when pressed again for something positive he might take out of his experience here, he at last found something.

"The fact that I'm an Eagle," he said. "An Eagle for life, and part of history at Coppin State. I'm going to keep all these memories with me for a lifetime."

Pub Date: 3/17/97

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