Brockington, Coppin have tough act to follow Guard, Eagles eager to repeat NCAA success

November 24, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Antoine Brockington knows his life will never be the same.

The Coppin State senior guard is something of a celebrity on and off the basketball court.

Two improbable days at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in last March's NCAA tournament assured Brockington of that honor. He still gets fan mail from Pittsburgh more than eight months after he captivated that city and much of the nation with his showing on the court.

Brockington still signs autographs around Baltimore and is the most recognized player on a Coppin State team that pulled off a stunning upset last March 14 against South Carolina and came back two days later and almost did the impossible again against Texas.

"At first in Pittsburgh, I felt a little nervous about signing autographs," said Brockington. "But I'm over all that, and don't mind the attention I get. I especially like the idea that the school is being recognized by a lot of people. It's nice to be in the limelight."

Basketball fans simply love Brockington's no-fear, high-wire, slam-dunking, three-point-shooting act and have spent the last eight months looking forward to his 1997-98 show.

It will open tonight at 7 at the Hartford (Conn.) Civic Center with 12th-ranked Connecticut providing the opposition.

The only question this season is what kind of performance can Brockington possibly give to top last season's?

Just wait and see.

That is the word from those who have followed Brockington's flashy career from the Philadelphia public schools to his current status as a preseason choice for Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

Brockington might even be asked by coach Fang Mitchell to play some point guard occasionally and officially take over the offense.

Brockington, 6 feet 2, has often taken over games for the Eagles from shooting guard, where he averaged 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.9 steals and nearly two dunks a game last season.

He scored 27 in the NCAA second-round loss to Texas after getting 20 in the dismantling of sixth-ranked South Carolina.

"Antoine is probably one of the most athletic basketball players in the country," said Mitchell. "He's such a tremendous scorer that you hate to have him spending a lot of time at point guard. Maybe it's something he can learn on his own. He is a special player."

So special that he often drew boos last season from MEAC fans on the road. They were tired of watching Brockington beat their schools. But Pittsburgh was different.

"I can't ever explain the feeling of what it was like to be cheered by 13,000 people for the first time in my life," said Brockington. "They told us before the South Carolina game that if we kept the score close, the fans would start cheering for us because they always love the underdog."

That role has now been used up a lot by Brockington and his teammates, and Connecticut will have the first shot at last season's Cinderella.

"We really have to focus on Connecticut, because they will be looking at what we did last year," said Mitchell. "They are going to be a load for us to handle."

Brockington seems ready for the challenge.

"I know people are going to come after me this season," he said. "It's just going to be harder for me and the team to handle because we lost two super guys up front in Terquin Mott and Reggie Welch. It puts more pressure on me, Danny [Singletary] and Fred [Warrick]."

Brockington and Singletary are the co-captains of the Eagles and will be expected to guide the team through any tough times.

"I told Antoine it's up to him and Singletary to take these young people in the right direction," said Mitchell. "The team will go by how they handle themselves and the leadership they provide."

The co-captain's role for Brockington points out a major change in him from last season.

"I worried about Antoine last year," said Mitchell. "He was so opinionated and didn't think things through before getting upset with me and other people. But he's matured to a level of leadership."

Mitchell had high hopes last summer that Brockington would win a spot on the 1997 World University Games team after being invited to the trials.

But it didn't happen.

"I heard Antoine played tremendously in the trials," said Mitchell. "And I don't even know if he was close to making it. There are a lot of politics involved in those selections."

One thing is obvious: The fans in Pittsburgh didn't have a vote.

If they would have, Brockington would have been a unanimous choice.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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