Coppin State goes about its business on the basketball court with an attitude that reflects the team's motto: Respect everyone. Fear no one.
Point guard Sidney Goodman takes that credo one step further when assessing his role with the Eagles.
"This is my floor. I'm the leader out there, and things are going to go my way," Goodman says. "And if I work hard enough and do things I know I can do, I will be successful. I go out with the confidence in myself and my teammates that we're going to be the dominant force."
Any questions? Not from any of Coppin State's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference competitors, who have failed to beat Goodman and the Eagles for the past two years.
When the top-seeded Eagles (22-7, 16-0) take the court at Morgan State tomorrow in the first round of the MEAC tournament, they will look to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 17 games. They will aim for their 36th straight MEAC victory and ultimately their second straight MEAC title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Coppin State will reload its arsenal, which includes forward Stephen Stewart, the league's most versatile player; Michael Thomas and Mario McGriff, their potent, 1-2 inside punch; and guard Keith Carmichael, their pure shooter.
The package starts with Goodman. A 6-foot-3 junior from Camden, N.J., he runs the offense with a blend of ball-handling, passing and shooting skills, sets the tone for the defense and tops it off with a steady diet of trash talk that reminds teammates and opponents alike who the boss is out there.
Goodman's numbers tell plenty about his worth to the Eagles. He leads the team in assists (4.0), steals (2.2) and free-throw shooting percentage (.791), ranks third in scoring (14.7) and has made 42 percent of his three-point attempts.
The statistics hint at the intelligence that defines Goodman's game.
Rarely does he make a poor decision. He has foiled more than a few two-on-one fast breaks with great positioning and quick hands. He usually can't match the highlight-reel stuff of a Thomas dunk or a Stewart power move through two defenders, or a 25-foot basket by Carmichael, but Goodman is at his coolest in crunch time.
"I know the value of a point guard. My life is in Sidney's hands," Coppin State coach Fang Mitchell said. "He's going to control my destiny."
"The No. 1 thing he [Goodman] brings to our team is leadership," says Stewart, the team's leading scorer, who credits Goodman for much of his success. "You need someone you can rely on, someone you can look in the eye and see the same confidence in when things get tough. He always keeps me in the game if I'm having a bad day."
Goodman takes his job seriously. You think he wants the ball? Sometimes during a game, he talks to the ball. He'll even kiss it occasionally.
"The game is the ball. Like football, whoever controls the ball the most or has the least amount of turnovers is going to win the game," Goodman says. "The ball has to be part of you. It's your best friend. You have to guard it with your life."
Goodman's tenacity, not to mention his ability to create his shot or pass after penetrating a defense, caught Mitchell's eye when he watched him play as a junior at Camden Catholic High School. Goodman transferred to Woodrow Wilson for his senior year, when he shifted from point to shooting guard, averaged 21 points and seven assists and led the team to the state championship.
Goodman was recruited by Philadelphia schools LaSalle and St. Joseph's, but after Reggie Isaac and Larry Stewart turned Coppin State into a Baltimore power in the early 1990s, Goodman decided to commit to the Eagles. As a freshman, he played sparingly, mainly at small forward, as Mitchell gradually worked him into his scheme. He started the final 12 games, averaging 6.3 points.
Last season, Mitchell gave him the ball. Goodman responded by leading the Eagles in minutes, three-pointers, free-throw shooting, assists and steals. Under Goodman's steady hands, Coppin State rolled through the MEAC undefeated and went to the NCAA tournament. Goodman picked up where he left off this season.
has always done the things we've asked of him on and off the court," Mitchell says. "Last semester, he had a 3.6 GPA. He's a good ball handler, a good shooter, a good defender and a decent passer. When you have those qualities, you're a pretty good player. And he has that don't-want-to-lose toughness."
Goodman's toughness also translates orally. When he's not making plays on the court, Goodman is a man of many words, working his opponents with a barrage of taunts. It's not the in-your-face variety, but it's enough to have earned Goodman a reputation.
"If there's one person in the MEAC that everybody doesn't like on our team, it would be him [Goodman]," Stewart says. "He talks the most trash. He says what he feels and he backs it up. He gets into his man's mind as well as he shirt."
"Sometimes, I don't realize I'm doing it. I'm not trying to put anyone down," Goodman says. "I'm trying to get the other player out of his game. Hopefully, I can distract him and get his mind off what he's supposed to be doing. I know they get tired of it. I'm not going to stop, because it's part of me."
And when he's not working over his opponent, Goodman is happy to help his teammates do the same to theirs. Just give him the ball.
"It's my job to help my teammates see the best of their abilities, to bring it out of them," he says.
"I want them to depend on me. I want to show them that I have the necessary qualities to be their leader. I'll take the weight on my shoulders gladly, any time."
@MEAC MEN'S TOURNAMENT
Florida A&M; (4-22, 2-14) vs. Morgan State (6-20, 4-12) Site: Hill Field House
Time: 7:30 tonight
Outlook: The eighth-seeded Bears need to win tonight's play-in game to advance to the dubious position of having to play top-seeded Coppin State tomorrow. However, Morgan State must get past a Florida A&M; team that beat the Bears twice for its only two MEAC victories. The Bears are led by F Gerald Jordan (14.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg), and guards Terrance Wright (10.1 ppg) and Chico Langston (11.8 ppg, 4.5 apg). The Rattlers, who have lost six straight, are led by All-MEAC C Joey McGear (12.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and all-rookie F Sean Black (9.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
MEAC WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
Outlook: The Bulldogs, looking for their third straight MEAC title, have been pretty much unstoppable all season, behind senior guards Wanda Wiggins (22.1 ppg) and Sonya Wilson (14.6 ppg, 2.5 apg), and freshman C Melissa Ward (10.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg). UMES is averaging only 51.9 ppg and figures to be routed for the third time this season by South Carolina State. Senior guards Audrey Williams (12.6 ppg, 4.9 apg) and Monic Holbeck (12.1 ppg) lead the Hawks.
Florida A&M; (17-9, 12-4) vs. Coppin State (6-20, 5-11) Time: 1:30 p.m. today
Outlook: Although Coppin State finished near the bottom of the MEAC standings, it nearly upset the Rattlers in their last meeting in February. The Eagles have lost six in a row, and are led by junior F Monica Benson (10.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and junior C Rene Doctor (11.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg). The Rattlers have won eight of their past nine games and have a potent offense featuring five players who average in double figures. Senior C Cathy Robinson (17.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg) and junior G Natalie White (12.4 ppg, 4.1 apg, 6.5 spg) lead the way.
Howard (13-13, 11-5) vs. Bethune-Cookman (8-17, 5-11) Time: 3:30 p.m. today
Outlook: The Bison figure to advance easily to the semifinals, based on their two easy victories over Bethune-Cookman during the regular season. Howard has gotten impressive production from C Denique Graves (14.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg), F Annette Lee (19.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and G Dorothy Williams (14.2 ppg). Bethune-Cookman has had trouble scoring in stretches this year, and will need big games from forwards Vicki Smith (8.4 ppg) and Sabrina Burnam (10.3 ppg), and C Scherrie Jackson (11.6 ppg) to pull off an upset.
North Carolina A&T; (16-10, 11-5) vs. Delaware State (8-18, 6-10) Time: 5:30 p.m. today
Outlook: The fifth-seeded Hornets lost twice during the regular season, although it was only by a combined seven points. C Jackie Campbell (18.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and G Angela Frett (10.0 ppg) have been their steadiest players. North Carolina A&T; is averaging a solid 67.6 points a game and has a balanced attack led by F Angela Hill (14.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg), G Nisha Watson (12.5 ppg) and F Ericia Turner (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg).