After a temporary detour, former Coppin State men’s basketball guard Nendah Tarke has returned to the state to play for a crosstown rival.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Tarke agreed to transfer to Towson, three months after he initially committed to play at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
“It’s been a process, but it’s been fun,” he said Monday. “Ultimately, I feel like I made the right decision for myself.”
The same could be said for the Tigers, who are quite familiar with Tarke’s abilities. In two career starts against Towson, he totaled 35 points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds for the Eagles and left a favorable impression on coach Pat Skerry.
“When we played against him, we couldn’t guard him,” Skerry said. “He’s a terrific player on both sides of the ball. … So when the opportunity presented itself, I said we’ve got a spot, and he wanted to be close, and we jumped on it.”
Tarke’s three-year stay at Coppin State was productive. As a freshman in 2020-21, he was named the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after averaging 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20 games, including 11 starts, while playing alongside older brother Anthony.
The following season, Tarke started all 32 games and led NCAA Division I with 2.9 steals per game, and ranked second in total steals with 94, a school NCAA-era single-season record. He averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists, being named first-team All-MEAC and making the All-Defensive team.
Last winter, Tarke averaged 12.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 32 games (31 starts). Although he slipped to the All-MEAC third team, he was voted to the All-Defensive team for the second consecutive year.
In three seasons with the Eagles, Tarke scored 1,025 points (a 12.2 average), collected 502 rebounds (6.0), amassed 182 steals (2.2), and dished out 175 assists (2.1).
But after the university announced March 15 that it had fired coach Juan Dixon, Tarke entered the transfer portal. In mid May, he chose Nicholls State over Loyola Chicago, Rutgers and South Alabama.
But Tarke had second thoughts after his 60-year-old mother, Elizabeth, suffered a health scare a few days later and was hospitalized.
“That was kind of tough for me because she just so happened to be with other people when it happened at the time, but if she was at home, she would not have had a way to get to the hospital,” said Tarke, who grew up in Gaithersburg. “All of my siblings are dispersed throughout the country. So I feel like that played a big part in me wanting to stay close to home.”
After decommitting from Nicholls State in early June, Tarke drew interest from Iona, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. But when Towson increased its recruitment, Tarke said the school’s proximity to home and his mother was his top priority.
“If I went to those other schools, that would kind of defeat the purpose of decommitting,” he said.
The Tigers had an opening on their roster after suspending redshirt sophomore guard Ryan Conway, a Baltimore resident and Dulaney graduate who was arrested and charged July 12 with second-degree rape and assault more than one year after the crime was reported to Baltimore County Police. Skerry declined to comment on Conway’s status.
NCAA transfer rules require a player to sit out a season if that player transferred to two programs in the same offseason. But Towson applied last week for a waiver, arguing that Tarke did not enroll at Nicholls State.
“I am optimistic that the NCAA will do what’s right for the student-athlete in this case,” Skerry said.
Tarke joins a Tigers program that enjoyed its second straight 20-win season for only the second time in school history and back-to-back appearances in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinals.
The lone guard in a transfer class of forwards Messiah Jones (Wofford), Tomiwa Sulaiman (IUP) and Marcus Watson (North Carolina A&T), Tarke will be tasked with helping replace the lost production following the departures of shooting guard Nicolas Timberlake (Kansas) and small forward Cam Holden.
Timberlake, a two-time All-CAA first-team choice, led last year’s team in scoring at 17.7 points per game and became the program’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals made (233) and attempted (614). Holden, an All-CAA second-team pick, averaged 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists, and became only the second player in school history to compile a triple-double with his 23-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist effort against William & Mary on Jan. 28.
The good news is that the cupboard isn’t bare. Senior power forward Charles Thompson averaged 12.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks en route to his second consecutive All-CAA second-team and All-Defensive team accolades. Junior shooting guard Christian May, who averaged 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds while coming off the bench in 28 of 30 games, will be expected to assume a larger role this winter.
Skerry said Tarke strengthens the roster as a veteran who can produce offensively and defensively. He compared Tarke favorably to Brian Fobbs, who scored 1,083 points in 64 starts in two years.
“I think we’ve got the ability to post up the ball, and I think we’ve got some catch-and-shoot opportunities, and I think he enhances those guys on both of those things because of his ability to do things with the ball,” Skerry said of Tarke. “He can get a guy like Charles an easy layup or get a guy like May a rhythm 3. That’s what’s impressive about him.”
Skerry said Tarke is versatile enough to play both guard and forward positions, and Tarke said he has no preference for a spot as long as he can contribute to the team. He also noted that he has no preconceived notions that he will be a starter at Towson as he was with the Eagles.
“I’m not really someone that expects something,” he said. “I try to earn it. I’m going to try to compete for it. One thing I like about Coach [Skerry] is, he didn’t promise me anything because I don’t want to be coddled. The fact that I’ve got to put my head down and work for it, that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Towson at Colorado
Monday, Nov. 6