Big man Jay Copeland is heating up to the delight of NCCU

Jan. 10, 2014 @ 05:40 PM

The funniest thing has been happening on the way to the rim for N.C. Central big man Jay Copeland.

He’s been taking his eyes off the goal. Literally. That’s why he’s been missing layups.

“I went back and I looked at film, and he wasn’t keeping his eye on the target,” NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. “He’d get at the rim, and at the last minute he’d take his eye off the target. It was the craziest thing.”

Copeland was locked in Tuesday when Hampton showed up at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium. He scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 74-61 NCCU win. Copeland demonstrated focus, shooting 6 of 8 from the field and hitting both of his free throws.

“I want him to be even more active, because he’s capable of 14 (points) and seven (rebounds) every night,” Moton said.

NCCU (8-4) starts its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule tonight at Florida A&M (6 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

Hampton is in the MEAC, but Pirates coach Ed Joyner Jr. and Moton before the season agreed to have their teams play each other off the league’s record. Both coaches needed a game to complete their team’s schedules.

FAMU’s Jamie Adams is averaging 17.1 points per game and will be looking to get his mojo going again after scoring just nine points the last time the Rattlers (4-11, 0-2 MEAC) were on the floor, an 81-50 loss at Auburn on Jan. 4.

NCCU’s Jeremy Ingram is the No. 10 scorer in the nation at 21.8 points per game. But he was just 1 of 8 from the field against Hampton, and he missed 3 of 6 free throws.

Joyner said he didn’t use any special defenses on Ingram, although the goal was to make him work hard when the Pirates had the ball and then see if any of the other Eagles could put the ball in the basket, which they did.

“Kids that we said were going to have to make shots made them,” Joyner said.

NCCU’s Dante Holmes (15 points), Jordan Parks (14 points) and Emanuel Chapman (11 points) also scored in double figures against Hampton.

Copeland’s offensive production against Hampton was above the 7.5 points per game he’d been averaging, and that’s a good look for the Eagles, aiming to return from Florida 2-0 in the MEAC after Monday’s game at Bethune-Cookman.

Last year and throughout this season, Copeland (6-7, 255) has had trouble finishing shots through contact. Pushups apparently are helping him break his habit of taking his eyes off the basket. He said every time he misses a layup in practice, that’s 10 pushups for him.

Copeland’s activity and accuracy while cleaning the offensive boards against Hampton was punctuated with 1:54 left in the game. Ingram missed a layup, and Copeland — a thick, burly guy — soared through the air, caught up with the basketball and flushed it hard to give the Eagles a 66-58 lead.

“I had a flashback to my high school career,” Copeland said. “I used to get up with ease.”

Copeland, who started his college career at Ball State, has had some injuries that cut in on his explosiveness. But he said he did some stretching before the Hampton game that left him good and loose.