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As a young kid growing up in Philadelphia, Quadir Copeland saw himself as a boxer.
That was the sport his dad specialized in during his own youth. Basketball? It seemed OK, but it didn’t really catch his interest.
Then he watched his older brother, Daiquan, develop into a standout on the hardwood and eventually star for Girard College prep school. Like many younger siblings, Quadir wanted to be just like his big brother.
Hoops has been his passion ever since.
A rising senior at Gettysburg High School, Copeland is generating significant NCAA Division I interest after a standout 2019-20 season. The 6-foot-6 guard recently picked up a scholarship offer from Penn State to go with an offers from LaSalle and Siena.
“I’ve been working toward this for a while,” Copeland said of getting an offer from a Power Five program. “I talked to their coaches a couple times so it was expected. I’m grateful for it, but I definitely felt like I deserved it.”
Gettysburg’s Quadir Copeland floats through the air to score on a layup and put the Warriors up 24-21 in the second quarter against York Suburban on Wed., Jan. 29, 2020. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)
While Penn State is not traditionally known as a basketball school, the Nittany Lions just had one of their best seasons in recent history, going 21-10 under ninth-year head coach Patrick Chambers. They were in position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 when the postseason was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Copeland, who plays AAU basketball for the Philadelphia-based Team Final in Nike’s EYBL league, said Chambers told him his combination of height and perimeter skills made him an ideal fit for the Nittany Lions.
He said he’s also been in contact with a number of Division I programs including Indiana, Miami, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He added that he’s a long way from making a college decision.
Part of that is because he’s still deciding on where he’ll be playing high school basketball next season.
“That’s too far out,” he said of picking a college. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”
A standout season
Gettysburg’s Quadir Copeland scores on a layup during a semifinal game against Lancaster Mennonite in the GWABC Tip-Off Tournament in Gettysburg Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)
Copeland played varsity as a freshman at Gettysburg, and had a strong sophomore season in 2018-19.
But after sprouting from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-6 last offseason, he took things to a new level this past year.
Copeland put up jaw-dropping numbers as a junior, averaging 22.1 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while leading the Warriors to an undefeated regular season. He came six points away from setting Gettysburg’s school record for most points in a season.
He threw down alley-oops. He made no-look passes. He grabbed rebounds and went the length of the court, dribbling between his legs and behind his back before converting twisting layups.
He was named first-team all-state in addition to first-team YAIAA by GameTimePA.
“He has a dynamic ability and skillset for a 6-foot-6 kid that sets him apart,” Gettysburg head coach Lawrence Williams said. “People don’t realize he’s only 16 years old. He has tremendous upside.
“He’s continuing to learn the game and I don’t think he’s reached his peak yet.”
More: Gettysburg’s Quadir Copeland named to 5A all-state team in boys’ hoops
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Though one of the tallest players in the YAIAA, Copeland projects as a point guard at the next level. He said his natural instinct is to be a pass-first player, but that he adapted the mindset of being a go-to scorer this winter.
He seemed to adapt well, scoring 30 points multiple times and finishing the year with 969 career points.
“I was always fast and athletic and long, but I developed more of a jump shot,” said Copeland, who added his brother is also 6-foot-6 and his growth spurt wasn’t totally unexpected. “I wasn’t always known as a scorer, but it came naturally. It was easier for me to get to the basket, and I could get my points off the dribble or from three.”
However, Copeland and Gettysburg’s breakout season didn’t have its desired ending.
Entering the postseason undefeated, the Warriors lost in the opening round of the YAIAA tournament to York High, 59-46, after trailing by 20 for much of the game as Copeland scored just 13 points. The top seed in the District 3 Class 5A tournament, Gettysburg won its opening game but then lost three in a row to finish eighth.
The Warriors lost in the first round of the state playoffs to finish 23-5 after going 22-0 in the regular season.
“I learned that everybody can be beaten,” Copeland said. “We got really lazy. We thought we were unstoppable, practices got kind of lazy and that killed us. I learned that you always have to work hard because you don’t know what’s in front of you.”
Copeland said he’s been motivated to work even harder this offseason because of the way this past season ended. He’s hoping to grow as a leader in addition to getting better on the court.
Those efforts have been noticed by his head coach.
“After the season, I gave the kids a week or two off to decompress. And Quadir reached out to me,” Williams said. “He said there were things he needed to talk about and shared his feelings and apologized for some things. You don’t get that from teenagers a lot.
“I think he’s matured somewhat. He has room to keep maturing and as he does he will have a better understanding of what he is capable of.”
A culture shock
Gettysburg head coach Lawrence Williams draws up a play before the start of the third quarter in a semifinal game against Lancaster Mennonite in the GWABC Tip-Off Tournament in Gettysburg Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. The Warriors won, 63-51. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)
Copeland moved from Philadelphia to Gettysburg toward the end of eighth grade, and he admitted the transition wasn’t easy.
He was used to a fast-paced city life, and he struggled initially to adjust to central Pennsylvania. He said he’s realized over the past few years that it’s been good for him to have different life experiences and live in different communities.
Williams has a good understanding of his star pupil’s experiences. He also moved from Philadelphia to Gettysburg right before high school, and became a star football and basketball player for the Warriors from 1997 to 2000. He went on to be a standout defensive back for Division I Lehigh and set Patriot League records.
“I get the culture shock,” Williams said. “Not to make it too racial, but you go from seeing a lot of people who look like you to not as many people who look like you. The academics are different. Things don’t move as fast. I think it’s benefited (Copeland) to live in a small town and for him to see that people know who he is and identify him as a dynamic player. He gets to interact with different people and that’s helped with his maturity.”
Added Copeland: “In Philly there’s always stuff going on. In Gettysburg things are more quiet. It wasn’t what I was expecting and it wasn’t a great experience right away. But sometimes things being quiet lets you think more. I’ve met a lot of great people here and it was good to start high school here.
“I’ve learned a lot of things in Gettysburg that will help me 20 or 30 years down the road.”
While Copeland said he’s glad to have moved to Gettysburg, he’s not committing to finishing high school there.
He still has one more big decision before he makes a college choice.
A potential transfer?
Gettysburg’s Quadir Copeland hangs from the rim after dunking the ball during a semifinal game against Lancaster Mennonite in the GWABC Tip-Off Tournament in Gettysburg Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Copeland lead the team with 22 points and was 2-2 from the line as the Warriors won, 63-51. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)
Copeland is young for his grade, and won’t turn 17 until September.
Because of that and his still-developing recruitment, he said he is considering transferring from Gettysburg to a preparatory school and reclassifying as a junior in the class of 2022. Prep schools aren’t part of the PIAA and therefore aren’t held to the same transfer restrictions.
Copeland said he is looking at schools in Philadelphia and New Jersey but is considering staying at Gettysburg. He doesn’t have a time frame on the decision.
“I’m still in the process of choosing and I’m keeping things open,” Copeland said. “Wherever I end up, I’ll be working hard.”
Williams said he’s spoken with his star player about reclassifying at a different school. He pointed out that Copeland has the option to graduate at Gettysburg and then attend a one-year prep school before making a college decision.
“He’s young but he doesn’t have to reclassify now. Finishing out his senior year and then attending a prep school would be the same process,” Williams said. “But I will support him and his decision.”
Right now, Copeland is staying in New Jersey and working on his game on a daily basis. He’s focusing on weight lifting to add muscle to his frame, but is also taking 300 to 400 shots a day to become a better all-around scorer.
Wherever he plays next year, Copeland will be motivated.
“The end of last year made me a lot more hungry,” he said. “I’m going for blood next year. I’m going as hard as I can.”
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.
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