Copeland at G-W

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2014

BOILING SPRINGS — A.L. Brown grad Derrick Copeland has transferred from Division III Emory & Henry to Division I Gardner-Webb.

The 6-foot guard was the 2013 South Piedmont Conference Player of the Year in a league that included players such as Concord’s Connor Burchfield and Cox Mill’s Matt Morgan. That tells you how highly the league’s coaches regarded Copeland, who was the Wonders’ floorleader, ballhandler and most accurate 3-point shooter.

Copeland missed two weeks of his senior season with an ankle injury, but a career-high 30 point effort against North Forsyth in the first round of the 3A playoffs put him over 1,000 points for his career. He finished with 1,015 and was Brown’s first 1,000-point guy since Garrett Sherrill in 2005. Even Josh Gray and Teven Jones fell a bit short of 1,000.

A.L. Brown coach Shelwyn Klutz recognized Copeland’s 1,000-point achievement at the Wonders’ game with East Rowan on Jan. 3. Copeland was home for the holidays and gratefully accepted a basketball commemorating the milestone.

“They named off all my accolades, and it did feel good,” Copeland said. “The coaches, players and fans gave a lot of love back to me. I really appreciated it.”

Copeland was under-recruited for someone with his skills last spring. A good student, his best option was Emory & Henry, a highly regarded academic school in Virginia.

Copeland enjoyed the school and the academic challenges at Emory & Henry.

“But basketball-wise, it wasn’t right for me,” Copeland said. “I wasn’t comfortable with the level of competition there. It felt like high school all over again, and that wasn’t what I wanted. I want to be pushed. I want to get better.”

Copeland had quite a bit of familiarity with Gardner-Webb. It’s a school he liked all along and it’s a school that competes in the D-I Big South with the likes of Campbell, Coastal Carolina, Charleston Southern, Radford, VMI, Winthrop and UNC Asheville.

“I was very interested in Gardner-Webb and I actually made an unofficial visit there my junior year,” Copeland said. “Then I went to a camp there the summer between my junior and senior years. They stayed in touch with me for a while, but then we lost touch. I guess they moved on and I moved on. But now they’ve got a new staff there.”

Tim Craft was named as the new coach of the Runnin’ Bulldogs last summer. Gardner-Webb is currently 7-10.

Copeland began classes at Gardner-Webb last week. He’s already made new friends, and he’s optimistic about his basketball future.

“I’m not on the team now, but I do plan to be on the team next season,” Copeland said. “I’m enrolled for this semester and I’ll be able to work out with the team in the offseason.”