Coppin dials down level of noise, foe

Tradition is transformed at Alabama and Wake Forest

Notebook

January 03, 2007|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

Antwan Harrison prepped in Washington at Gonzaga, which would always take a trip to a prestigious tournament over the holidays.

He also has fond memories of making the AAU rounds for D.C. Assault.

Nothing expands a young man's knowledge of geography, however, like playing for Coppin State, which annually undertakes one of the nation's toughest nonconference schedules.

Harrison is the Eagles' power forward - all 6 feet 3 of him - and with an eight-day swing to No. 8 Alabama, No. 18 Connecticut and No. 6 Ohio State fresh in his mind, he was asked to assess the 2006 portion of the 2006-07 season.

Toughest team?

"Alabama," Harrison offered. "Their point guard still isn't at full strength, but their combination of size and athleticism was really difficult for us to handle. They could win the national title."

Was the Crimson Tide's Ronald Steele the best point guard Coppin has faced?

"He may be," Harrison said, "but [Ohio State's] Mike Conley did a real good job of setting up his teammates as well."

Coppin State had to cover Tennessee's Chris Lofton, who's regarded as one of the nation's top shooters. Who was the best shooter Harrison remembers?

"Daequan Cook, because of his size," Harrison said of Ohio State's 6-5 freshman wing, who's three inches taller than Lofton. "Every shot Cook had, he seemed open, even when people were on him."

Who was the best defender to get up on Coppin State's Tywain McKee, who scores 18 a game?

"I can't single out one individual," Harrison said, "but the help defense of the last three teams was really noticeable. They all got out on Ty, forced him to drive, because of their inside help."

The Buckeyes' Greg Oden and Connecticut's Hasheem Thabeet are freshman shot-blockers of renown. Who was the best Coppin State has faced?

"Any of the guys from Alabama who play in the post," Harrison said.

For the record, Jermareo Davidson had five of Alabama's nine blocks against Coppin State.

What unheralded player from another time zone opened the Eagles' eyes?

"Matt Lojeski, No. 21 from Hawaii," Harrison said. "He played the 1, 2 and 3 spots against us, and is a very smart player. He scored, set up his teammates, did a little of everything."

Which mismatch was the toughest personally on Harrison?

"Richard Hendrix, Alabama," Harrison said, of a sophomore who had five inches and 50 pounds on him. "His size and strength, there aren't a lot of guys who have that combination."

Coppin State (2-11) has dealt with Missouri and coach Mike Anderson's brand of 40 minutes of hell, and been drowned out at Virginia Tech and Tennessee, when students were still on campus.

Coach Fang Mitchell's Eagles have been outscored by more than 20 per game, but the competition and the environment will do an about-face, starting tonight (7:30) at the Coppin Center, where they play their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference home opener against Bethune-Cookman.

"We've played some of the best teams in the country," Harrison said. "We've gone up against guys who are going to be in the NBA. We should have no fear."

Two-sport, Part 1

It feels weird when Alabama is better in basketball than it is in football, and Wake Forest has a football team in a Bowl Championship Series game and a hoops squad will struggle to get to the National Invitation Tournament.

Some schools succeed to a high degree in both. Wisconsin has a top 10 ranking in both sports, and the Jan. 8 national championship game will pit Florida and Ohio State, Nos. 3 and 6, respectively, in this week's basketball rankings.

Curious about Boise State's basketball tradition? The Broncos have never won a game in the NCAA tournament and made the last of their four tournament appearances in 1994, but they do have star power. Point guard Coby Karl is known for being a cancer survivor and the son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, but he also might be the second-best player in the Western Athletic Conference after Nevada's Nick Fazekas.

Two-sport, Part 2

Showing up a Winston-Salem State team that is 0-16 against Division I competition proves nothing, but Towson hopes the hoops Tommy Breaux had in Friday's rout of the Rams remain on display tonight (7 o'clock), when the Tigers have their Colonial Athletic Association home opener against Virginia Commonwealth.

A state champion sprinter and jumper for Randallstown High, Breaux played football and basketball for Blinn College in Texas, and ran with the Towson football team in practice as a wide receiver last fall. He's been in and out of Pat Kennedy's first five this season, but made the most of Friday's start, as he dunked his way to a 6-for-6 shooting night and a season-high 20 points.

"Football is snap and spurt. Basketball is run, run, run," Kennedy said. "Tommy finally has his timing down. He could be the X-factor for our team."

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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