Young at heart, not on the court

Coppin State: Already a co-captain, freshman Darryl Proctor shows extraordinary maturity in his game and with his ability to lead by example.

College Basketball

February 12, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

He is seven weeks removed from his 18th birthday, the youngest player on his men's basketball team. Yet Coppin State freshman forward Darryl Proctor has never behaved like the baby of the family.

From the time in October when he first set foot on the practice floor, Proctor has seemed older, with his hard-nosed, studious approach to the game.

And the truth is the Eagles (9-12, 9-3) probably would not be battling visiting Delaware State tonight for first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standings without this budding, 6-foot-4, 230-pound star, who has rearranged the hierarchy on the Coppin State roster.

Eagles coach Fang Mitchell saw someone special in November, when he took the unusual step of naming Proctor a co-captain.

Mitchell loved the kid's bulk and athleticism when he recruited him out of Paul VI High School in the Washington, D.C., Catholic League. But it was Proctor's decision-making and obsession with expanding his game that struck the coaching staff.

Proctor is no secret anymore. Not after winning his third straight MEAC Rookie of the Week honor and his fifth of the season. Not after making a seamless switch from small forward to undersized power forward nearly two months ago, then asserting himself as an indispensable piece of the Coppin State puzzle.

"I look at the situation with amazement," Mitchell said. "Freshmen [typically] make bad decisions -- shot selection, knowing when to gamble [for steals] at the defensive end, knowing how to rebound. [Proctor] knows what he needs to do, and he just thinks the game.

"He wants to learn, wants to get better. That's a coach's dream. Ask him if he's nervous, he looks at you like you're crazy. I wouldn't have given him that [co-captain] responsibility if I didn't think he had the maturity level. He's unfazed by the whole situation."

The soft-spoken Proctor keeps shouting with his game.

He leads the Eagles in rebounding (6.7), total steals (36) and shooting percentage (.463), ranks second in scoring (12.6), and had a career-high 31 points in a 79-74 victory over North Carolina A&T a week ago.

He is tied for the team lead with 21 starts, and his 34.5 minutes a game rank third in the MEAC.

"At first, I was a little scared about coming to college," said Proctor, who also drew interest from Towson, Loyola, VCU and Duquesne. "I was asking myself, `Am I going to play? How much time am I going to get?' It was a big eye-opener. People are a lot stronger here. This game is a lot quicker [than high school].

"I'm just taking my place as a freshman, listening to the upperclassmen. I don't like to say much. I feel, as a freshman, I should take a backseat to them."

Proctor admitted to being awed during the early-season road trips to Kentucky, Texas and Oklahoma, where the Eagles absorbed sizable beatings.

But his confidence did not waver. He kept sharpening his ability to post up smaller guards and blow by slower forwards, kept working on his mid-range jump shot, kept attacking the glass, kept winning over his teammates.

"I could tell [Proctor] was a work-hard kind of guy when I got to see him play in the summer [during pickup games]," said junior forward Nicholas King, the team's co-captain and leading scorer. "But to come in and do what he's doing, you definitely don't expect that from a freshman."

Darryl's mother, Paulette Proctor, a telecommunications contractor for the D.C. government who also is the director of basketball operations at Paul VI High School, said her son has never taken his success for granted. And he will not start now.

"Darryl is very concerned about his approval rating from people. He accepts criticism very well," she said. "The pressure doesn't get to him. He doesn't get frustrated with himself. His biggest fear is he'll stop learning."

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