7th day, she rests Women's basketball: Coppin State standout Trisha Allen takes a seat on Saturdays, and stays home Friday nights, too, to observe her Sabbath.

January 17, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Trisha Allen is the Coppin State women's basketball team's most versatile player and second-leading scorer, but she will be at home in Greenbelt with her family today instead of suiting up for an important Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game with South Carolina State at the Coppin Center. And she is sitting out with the permission of her coach, Britt King.

It will be the fourth game this season that Allen has been allowed to miss, and she will sit out at least five more Saturday afternoon games for the Eagles (3-8), who are 1-2 without her.

The MEAC women's tournament championship also is scheduled for a Saturday afternoon (March 7) and Allen said she would not play in that game if Coppin makes it.

So just why would any competitive coach allow this to happen?

King is keeping a promise she made to Allen, a 5-foot-8 junior forward, before Allen enrolled at Coppin last spring after the collapse of the University of District Columbia's athletic program. Allen was the team's leading scorer (17.1 ppg) as a sophomore, and King was the head coach.

King told Allen that she would never have to break her devotion to her Seventh-day Adventist religion, which observes the Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Those 24 hours are a time, Allen says, "The Lord wants me to keep holy.

"I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I'm trying to do what he [the Lord] wants me to. I couldn't even play on a Saturday if we were playing for the NCAA championship," Allen says quietly but with certainty.

But don't think for a moment that these decisions not to play basketball on Saturdays or go out with her friends on Friday nights ever come easily for Allen.

"I think about my teammates every time they are playing without me," she says. "When I didn't play against Delaware State, I wanted to know the score Saturday night, but I didn't have any of my teammates' telephone numbers, so I decided to wait until practice the next day to find out."

Aiming for next level

Allen averages 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds and is able to power her way inside for high-percentage shots or shoot three-pointers, her favorite shot.

She hopes to improve her game enough over the next season and a half at Coppin to play in the Women's NBA when she graduates.

"I know all the problems my religion will cause a WNBA team, but I'd love the opportunity," Allen says. "If it doesn't work out, I'll do social work with children."

Even tougher than missing college games for Allen, 21, is missing those Friday nights out.

"The hardest temptation is to go out with my friends on Friday night," she says. "It's a designated time by everybody to go out. But I go out on Saturday night and other nights. I like to go skating and bowling. That's my going out."

Because Allen is able to say no to such an important part of her social life, she has gained the respect of her coach and her teammate and friend, 6-1 sophomore center Simone Adams.

Coach King says: "If Trish was the kind of person who went out and partied on Friday nights, I'd have a problem with her not playing on Saturdays. She's so dedicated to it, and I respect her for it.

"When I first recruited her to UDC, I was the one who suggested to her parents [Dolores and Monroe] that I put it in the letter of intent that she wouldn't have to play on Saturdays."

Admiration, and regret, too

Adams says: "I admire Trish for what she is doing. It takes a lot of discipline for her to practice five days a week with us and then not play on Saturdays. She's saying God is first and she has a foundation in her life. She has made me more aware of religion and made me get my life more in order."

Not a day passes without some of her Coppin teammates asking Allen if she won't reconsider her decision not to play on Saturdays.

Junior Alicia Ritchie, who is out for the season with a knee injury, once told Allen: "We'll all go to church and pray for your forgiveness if you play."

Allen says Ritchie and others are "just joking with me, and that brings us closer together."

But King smiles and says: "These girls aren't joking. They really want her to play."

All of which begs King to answer the biggest possible question of all about Allen this season.

If the Coppin State women (picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll) made it to the MEAC tournament championship game March 7, what would King do?

"I'd offer to go to her priest or preacher and take all the blame [for Allen's playing] and say a whole lot of Hail Marys if Trish wanted me to," King says with a big smile.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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