Comfortable at Coppin

Rashida Suber lost a scholarship, then gained a home

March 06, 2007|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,Sun reporter

Nearly four years ago, Rashida Suber barely knew Coppin State existed.

"I was like, `Where is that?'" she said. "`I've never heard of that. Is that Division I?'"

Suber had just lost her basketball scholarship from Marshall after failing to meet eligibility standards. The West Baltimore school and Rider were interested in her.

Sufficiently assured that Coppin was Division I, the 5-foot-8 guard from Reading, Pa., found comfort with the Eagles, who have leaned on her talents in turn.

As Coppin (23-6, 18-0) enters the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament in Raleigh, N.C. - tomorrow at noon against the winner of today's game between South Carolina State and Howard - it does so with 47 straight wins in league play, the No. 1 seed and a shot at a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Suber has been present for all of the streak - entering the squad as a bench player in her first season, earning first-team all-league honors the next season, and turning out a performance this season that led the MEAC to name her Player of the Year last night.

In 2006-07, she has averaged 19.1 points and 3.1 steals, both second best in the conference. She leads the MEAC in three-pointers and minutes. Suber accomplished this while being the focal point of defenses, unlike last season when teammate and 2006 Player of the Year Sherri Tucker was around.

"She's been dealing with a lot of double teams," Coppin State coach Derek Brown said of Suber, "but she knows how to get herself open a lot."

Scheduled to graduate with a degree in criminal justice this spring, she'll gain the fourth year of eligibility she initially lost. That would give her the opportunity to become the school's career leader in scoring. With 1,201 career points, she's only 336 behind current leader Kiesha Brooks, who scored 1,537 points from 1998 to 2001.

With 10 players returning from last season's 22-9 team, including three other starters - Shalamar Oakley, Tanezia Harden and Talia Sutton - the Eagles are deep. But Suber is the standout.

"She's our fire at times, that spark," said senior forward Talia Sutton. "She may not even say that much, but she has this face, and you know that it's time to ball."

Suber's development has been slower than she might have expected when she came out of Reading High School, where she scored 2,111 points, was a four-year starter and an All-State selection.

While the Coppin staff knew what they were getting, they knew they would need to wait for it. As a nonqualifier, Suber had to pay for her classes, working in the financial aid office. Even if she had been able to play as a freshman, she had dislocated her right ankle in a summer league game before she was scheduled to arrive at Marshall.

So when Suber was finally cleared to play in fall 2004, she was startled by the difference between high school ball and college ball, including the conditioning.

"Running?" she said, remembering her reaction. "I never ran in high school. At least not as much as they did in preseason conditioning. It was just overwhelming, but at the same time - with the way I feel about basketball - it just made me want to get it done."

But in her first year, Suber was the secret weapon off the bench for the Eagles, who went 23-8 and reached their first NCAA tournament.

"Skillwise, she was the most complete player we had," Brown said. "In a lot of games, she was the one who won games for us. You saw the starters, but they didn't know how good she was."

In the same sense, Suber has gone from someone who dreamed of playing for the Tennessees and Connecticuts to someone who appreciates the cozy feeling she remembered when she first encountered Coppin.

She was sold when half the team invited her over for dinner.

"They took me in as one of their own," Suber said. "Total strangers, but it wasn't a bad vibe at all. It was a good vibe."

christian.ewell@baltsun.com

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