Coppin's Singletary rises above crowd Senior point guard makes most of walk-on chance

March 04, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

If someone ever published a book about the life of Coppin State basketball star Danny Singletary, the title would have to be, "The Little Kid Who Could."

Could stare down Arizona's All-America candidate Miles Simon last December.

Could slay sixth-ranked South Carolina in the opening round of the NCAA tournament last March with a backbreaking three-point shot from the corner with just 1: 47 left.

Could produce a miracle finish with 29 points against Maryland Eastern Shore in the opening round of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament last March.

Could prompt All-Southeastern Conference guard Melvin Watson of South Carolina to say, "I got whipped," after he and the Gamecocks were upset, 78-65, last March.

Could score 29 points against Big 12 foe Iowa State on the road last December.

And could become an accomplished-enough center fielder to make All-MEAC two straight years and prompt talk of Singletary's being drafted by a major-league team.

"I've had to overcome a lot of obstacles all my life," he said. "It was tough growing up, and I had to work extra hard to accomplish things. That's why I'm keeping all my options open right now. Some people tell me pro basketball is not an option but pro baseball is. All I know is I'm out there playing my hardest in basketball and won't give up the possibility of a pro basketball career."

Just how little is or was Singletary?

He was 4 feet 9 in the eighth grade and grew to be 5-7 in the 12th grade.

Now, the senior point guard is generously listed at 6 feet but appears closer to 5-10.

That probably answers why Singletary has never been guaranteed a position on any basketball team he has played for.

It all started at Eastside High School in Paterson, N.J., where he did not make the varsity until his senior year.

Singletary was then a walk-on at NAIA Ohio Valley College in Parkersburg, W.Va., where he played two years before transferring to Coppin State to play baseball, which is his first love.

Even though he averaged 27.6 points as a sophomore at Ohio Valley to lead the National Small College Athletic Association in scoring, Singletary had to prove himself all over to coach Fang Mitchell and made the Eagles as a walk-on last season.

Some walk-on.

The 22-year-old averaged 10.5 points as a junior and exploded on to the national scene in the NCAA tournament.

This season, he is second only to Antoine Brockington on Coppin in scoring with a 14.3 average, leads the team in steals (2.7) and assists (2.8) and is third in free-throw percentage (.756).

When Singletary touches the ball for Coppin, the fun begins for everybody but the opposing team.

No one, not even Singletary sometimes, knows what he is going to do.

He could throw up an NBA three-pointer, use his quickness to drive the lane for any kind of shot or throw a perfect pass to Kareem Lewis for a layup.

Bad things can also happen when the inventive Singletary has the ball because he sometimes tries to force the ball through a crowd of players or make an off-balance acrobatic move.

"I kind of get out of control sometimes," said Singletary, whose top-seeded Eagles (17-1, 19-7) meet eighth-seeded Howard (5-13, 7-19) in the opening round of the MEAC tournament tonight at 8 at the Richmond Coliseum. "But the game is all about adjustments and playing your role on the team. If my role calls for me to take over the game, I'll do it. I don't mind being a marked man. In fact, I kind of like it."

Mitchell said he will take a Singletary every time over a youngster who had an easy road to the top.

"Danny grew up the hard way and those are the kind of kids who will be successful for you," said Mitchell. "Danny plays tough defense and that's what every coach loves. He has a problem with turnovers [97 turnovers to 73 assists], but some of those came when he had a leg injury."

Singletary said his favorite three words are "Have no fear" and he wants to be remembered at Coppin as "a happy-go-lucky guy who cares about life."

Mitchell said: "I know he cares about winning. Danny is a winner."

Pub Date: 3/04/98

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