Cope’s big comeback

Photo courtesy of the Rutland Herald

The ball is fed into the post. The big guy takes two dribbles and then fires up a turnaround hook shot that banks off the backboard and in.

“Chaaaadddddd Copeland!”

For most of the past five winters, there was a lot of this happening in Glenbrook Gymnasium – or wherever the Spartans were playing.

Fifth-year senior Chad Copeland – known just as ‘Cope’ to his friends, teammates and coaches – was coming off an injury-shortened 2015-2016 season and just completed a career year in leading Castleton to second in the league standings.

The Plainfield native who scored nearly 1,300 points for Twinfield High School, played only nine games in his official senior year last season before doctors found a cyst in his left knee, shutting him down for the season.

 “I was upset I couldn’t play out my senior year, but in the grand scheme of things, I was happy that I had the fifth year to recollect myself and be the player I wanted to be and have a comeback,” Copeland explained.

When it came down to deciding whether or not to exercise his fifth year, there was only one obstacle for Copeland.

“For me, the real doubt was on the academic side of things,” he answered quickly.  

But he was encouraged to apply for the Athletic Leadership program by his advisor Marybeth Lennox.

“She had confidence that I would get accepted; which was good because I didn’t have the confidence in myself,” Copeland said.

Although he certainly racked up good statistics, averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, the only number that matter to Copeland is wins.

 “The extra motivation for me this year was getting the program back to where it needed to be. I felt a responsibility for those records (14-13 record his junior year and 9-17 record last year); like I had a big hand in letting the program down,” he said carefully. “My goal this year was to come back and be the best leader I could be, the best player I could be and to let the process take care of itself in regards to winning and losing.”

Spartans’ head coach Paul Culpo, who recruited Copeland and has coached him for his entire collegiate career, can testify to him being a team-first player. 

“I’ve never coached a player with as much talent as Chad, who also understood the big picture of what it really takes to run a successful program,” Culpo said.

Rob Coloutti, who was Copeland’s roommate for his first four years, mentioned something else about his former teammate’s character.

“He improves season to season because of his drive and competitiveness to be the best on the court,” Coloutti said.

Another former teammate, Tyler Ackley, has witnessed Copeland’s extreme work ethic as well.

“I’ve been there when Cope shoots for hours in gyms when the lights weren’t on.  Most players leave in a situation like that, but not Cope,” he said.

Though his final season ended prematurely with a loss to Thomas in league semi-finals, there is still hope for Copeland to keep playing basketball at a competitive level overseas.

He is currently working with Steve Dagostino, who has played basketball internationally and is now an athletic trainer who works out many Division I players, and K&C Sports Brothers in his hopes to achieve this goal. 

Culpo said there is no doubt that he will make it overseas.

“Sometimes with your better players, they are selfish with their time and don’t understand the bigger picture. And with Chad, it was the exact opposite,” Culpo added. “If you combine talent with understanding of the program he’s the best I’ve ever coached.”

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