KANNAPOLIS — Everyone agrees A.L. Brown guard Derrick Copeland is a Division II talent, but he’s upbeat about heading to Virginia to play for Division III Emory & Henry.
“Emory & Henry is getting a steal,” A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz said. “Derrick did an awful lot for our program. He’s a true point guard who can run an offense, but he can also score the ball. He knocked down shots consistently. He was one of the best shooters we’ve had in my 16 seasons here.”
The Wonders had rangy athletes Tevin Stark and Tydus Parks flying above the rim, so they saw a lot of zone defenses. That gave Copeland long-range opportunities, and he came through. He drilled 89 3-pointers as a junior. He hit 86 more as a senior, despite missing several December games with an ankle injury.
A three-year varsity starter, the only thing Copeland lacks is size. He’s a shade under 6 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds. He averaged 9 points as a sophomore, 16 as a junior, and 17 points and 5 assists as a senior when he was named South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year.
“That said a lot about how much the coaches in the SPC thought of Derrick,” Klutz said. “He held everything together for us. He was team-first, and he was always calm.”
Copeland scored a career-best 33 points against Cornelius Hough as a junior. He went out with a bang, scoring 30 in a playoff loss at North Forsyth. That outburst in his final game in green gave him 1,015 points. He was Klutz’s first 1,000-point scorer since 2005.
The Wonders went 19-8 overall, their best season since 2004-05. They were 10-2 in the SPC, losing 57-56 and 68-66 to Concord.
“There was a lot of hype about the team,” Copeland said. “We meshed well together. We didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to do, but it was a season we’re proud of.”
Copeland’s biggest moment came in the final seconds of an NPC tournament semifinal game against Northwest Cabarrus. A.L. Brown trailed 69-67, but when Northwest failed to clinch the game at the foul line, the Wonders rushed upcourt. Michael Carr was nearly trapped on the sideline, but he lofted a desperate lead pass to Copeland, who grabbed the ball and put up a buzzer-beating 3-pointer — with his left hand. It banked in to win the game as he was fouled by the three Trojans who swarmed him.
“They were on my shooting arm all night, and there wasn’t enough time to pump-fake, so instinct said to put it up left-handed,” Copeland said. “It was lucky.”
Copeland also got lucky when Emory & Henry saw him for the first time playing in Florida in a showcase tournament.
“They liked me and then they were able to come see a few of my games,” Copeland said. “I took an all-day visit up there and really liked the school and the atmosphere.”
Emory & Henry is known more for academics than basketball. While E&H can’t offer a hoops scholarship, Copeland has a 3.5 GPA and will qualify for academic scholarships. He’ll major in business administration.
“The dream is to open a sporting goods store once I finish with basketball,” Copeland said.
Emory & Henry’s Wasps were 4-21 in 2012-13, leading to a coaching change. Former Furman assistant David Wilson was hired last month. Copeland should help Wilson and the Wasps be more competitive in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference against schools such as Guilford, Hampden-Sydney, Washington and Lee and Roanoke.
“I’m going to go up there with the idea of learning from the older players,” Copeland said. “My goal is to get better every day.”