UNC Checks Out Local Senior

Michael Copeland knows about being the center of attention. But the 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior post player at Winston-Salem (N.C.) R.J. Reynolds High likely didn't expect to step on the court in Bryson Gymnasium with a coach from the University of North Carolina closely watching him – as was the case Thursday.

UNC assistant coach Steve Robinson was on the North Hawthorne Road campus for Thursday afternoon's open gym session.

"Coach Robinson was just there to watch Mike work out," said Howard West, Reynolds' head coach of 17 years. West, who also coached current Tar Heel Reyshawn Terry, is departing the school after this academic year to serve as athletic director and basketball coach at the new nearby Reagan High School.

Other schools in attendance included South Carolina, LaSalle, Utah and East Carolina. West said Copeland has a visit to ECU planned for this coming weekend.

Copeland averaged nearly a double-double (17.8 points, 9.1 rebounds) per outing in his senior campaign, after which he earned Player of the Year honors for the Central Piedmont 4A Conference, and was selected to the All-Northwest N.C. team. Copeland was named to the All-State Second Team by two separate outlets - the Associated Press and NCPrepReport.com.

"He's the best low post offensive player I've had since I've been at Reynolds," West said of the sixth man on the school's 2003-04 state finalist team. "He's got the good up-and-under moves, the good power moves. If he misses, he's quick to go back up and get it."

Copeland's 19 points helped the Demons to a 91-82 overtime win Jan. 17 over Greensboro Dudley, which featured 6-foot-6 swingman William Graves, a Class of 2006 UNC commitment.

He also showed a different kind of quickness by filling the trailer's role on the fast break during the Carolinas All-Star Classic (March 19 at Winthrop, won 105-100 by N.C.), West said, which included the top twelfth graders from the bordering states.

"[Coach Robinson] said they are interested, but with Mike now it's a matter of qualification, so we're waiting for him to get his last test score back," West explained. While Copeland has yet to meet NCAA academic eligibility requirements for freshmen, West described him as being "extremely close" to qualifying, and said Copeland is preparing vigorously for the ACT while keeping his recruiting options open.

"[UNC] left it that they'd check in on the score and if that worked out they'd talk about setting up a meeting with Mike and Coach [Roy] Williams," West said.

And could a scholarship offer follow?

"It's possible," West replied. "I don't want to speak for them."

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