Coppin State's Sterling Smith, Arnold Fripp have eased absence of injured Michael Murray

Sophomore guard, junior forward have filled in while Eagles await return of Murray from broken right hand

November 13, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The Coppin State men’s basketball team is bracing for a few more weeks without senior small forward Michael Murray, who led the program last season with 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game but is healing a broken right (shooting) hand. But the team might be in good hands during Murray’s absence.

Sophomore shooting guard Sterling Smith scored a career-high 16 points in Friday’s 83-64 loss to California and then surpassed that with 21 points in Sunday’s 78-73 win against Oregon State.

Through two games, the 6-foot-4 Smith is averaging 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds and is shooting 63.6 percent from the floor and 58.3 percent from behind the three-point line. Last year, Smith averaged 5.2 points and 4.1 rebounds and shot 42.3 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from three-point range.

Coach Fang Mitchell said Smith’s improved play is a result of his work in the offseason.

“Sterling stayed during the summer,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “He had the opportunity of playing last year and seeing what it was all about. That made it lot easier for him in the summer to work on his weaknesses. He really put in a tremendous amount of work. His shooting – he’s spent hours of shooting in the gym – has really improved, and he worked on the basic fundamentals of the game. I’m not surprised because he put the time in and that’s a prime example of when people work on their games and the things that come of it.”

Smith has been complemented by junior small forward Arnold Fripp, who is averaging 14 points and 8.0 rebounds. The 6-7 Fripp, who helped Monroe Community College in Rochester finish fifth at the NJCAA Division II national tournament in March, joins three former Tribunes in senior shooting guard Andre Armstrong, junior small forward Dallas Gary and junior shooting guard Jahvari Josiah.

“Coach [Jerry] Burns gave me an opportunity to recruit him, and it was a no-brainer for us,” Mitchell said of Fripp. “People were just finding out about him, but we knew all along that he was a real good player. He can shoot, rebound, and block shots. So we were very fortunate to be able to get him.”

Smith and Fripp have helped ease Murray’s absence, which is exactly what Mitchell has been hoping for.

“We recognize that we were going to have to get contributions from other people with Michael being out,” Mitchell said. “People are stepping up, and it has allowed us to understand that in the end, if we keep our heads right and keep working, when Michael comes back, we have that possibility of having a real good team. It’s not good that Michael is out, but it has helped some other people get an opportunity to step in and fill in for him.”

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