Coppin channels its excitement Eagles eager to make most of their TV time

December 12, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Coppin State will be blazing another basketball trail tomorrow, becoming the first historically black college to appear on a major network in a regular-season game.

Seven years after upsetting Maryland at Cole Field House, nine months after shocking South Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and 11 days after stunning Missouri at its home, the Eagles will be making more history.

They will meet defending national champion and sixth-ranked Arizona at 2: 06 p.m tomorrow in a CBS regional telecast from the McKale Center in Tucson.

Coppin coach Fang Mitchell said: "I think this all started with us beating Maryland in 1990. No one else in this city or area has ever done that. What we've done is prove we can play, and the networks are buying into it, even though our league [Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference] is often looked upon as inferior, which is sometimes more about perception than anything else and is not necessarily the truth."

Mitchell called tomorrow's television appearance "a tribute to the program, the school and everybody connected to us. The fact they think enough of us to put us on network television against a school with the reputation of Arizona is great."

Coppin's leading scorer, Antoine Brockington (22.5 points per game), said he didn't think the Arizona game could be any bigger than a NCAA tournament game, but has been forced to change his mind in recent days.

"Even my teammates are more excited than they were for the tournament," said Brockington. "They've been coming up to me in practice and asking different questions about what it's going to be like playing Arizona. The black thing has added to it all. My mom [Carolyn] has been calling me and talking about the game, and she's called all her friends at home [Philadelphia] and has them ready to watch the game."

Brockington will be playing a third straight game with a tender left wrist that will be heavily taped.

"They tell me it will be tender for three weeks," said Brockington. "But that won't stop me. We'll have to keep our composure and show them we can beat the trap off their press."

Senior point guard Danny Singletary said: "Part of history is making history, and I love this game. Arizona is just like everybody else. They can be beat."

Senior forward Kareem Lewis said he isn't overwhelmed by playing Arizona.

"We deserve it," he said. "We've proved we're good enough to play Arizona."

Sophomore guard Troy Lewis said the Eagles feel some responsibility to other black schools to perform well tomorrow but are not consumed by the idea.

"This is more about helping ourselves," Lewis said. "When those schools play us, they want to beat us, so we can't think too much about them. We know we can hang with Arizona. We want to crack the Top 25. There are a lot of overrated schools in the Top 25."

Mitchell said the school will not be getting any money directly from CBS.

The Eagles (2-2) will receive the usual guarantee from Arizona (6-2) they get for road games, which is thought to be between $30,000 and $40,000.

The MEAC has a yearlong financial deal with CBS that is not limited to basketball games, and Coppin will draw money from that plan through the 12-member conference's revenue-sharing policy.

MEAC commissioner Charles Harris said: "The package with CBS has other considerations during the year. There are issues in place with CBS that are not all game-related. There is not a line for 'basketball game Dec. 13.' "

It was Harris who arranged the Coppin-Arizona meeting on CBS right after the NCAA tournament ended last March.

"A lot of things came together for this game to be scheduled," said Harris. "But Coppin had to deliver the goods with its performance in the NCAA tournament."

"I didn't even worry about the money," said Mitchell. "This game is more about exposure for the program and the school. It outweighs the money."

And what about Coppin's chances against an Arizona team that has returned all five starters, including sophomore point guard Mike Bibby and senior guard Miles Simon?

"We'll have to play almost a perfect game to beat them," said Mitchell. "They have great players and an outstanding coach in Lute Olson. They don't call their press '40 minutes from hell,' but it's basically that. They have tremendous depth.

"If you don't do the basic things against an Arizona, you can be embarrassed. We have to take care of the ball, rebound and know where their shooters are."

So just what will the stylish Mitchell wear for the occasion?

"I'll be wearing one of the suits my wife [Yvonne] bought for me," he said. "They're just regular suits. I don't have any Armani suits. I want to look church-like."

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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