It’s been almost two months since America East season came to an end when the Albany Great Danes were bounced from The Big Dance by top-seed Duke and the Stony Brook Seawolves took a tumble in the second round of the NIT at Iowa. But several America East alums are still chasing titles in some of the best leagues in the world.
Former America East Champions Taylor Coppenrath and Rashad Bell will be playing for their league championships this week in Spain and Hungary, respectively, while former two-time America East champ Jason Siggers is in hot pursuit of the chip in France.
From 2001-2005 Coppenrath flat-out owned the America East as the most statistically dominant player in league history. Over his four-year career at Vermont, the 6’9” 250 pound Coppenrath amassed 2,442 career points, good for third in the league’s all-time record book. After winning the 2002 Rookie of the Year award, Coppenrath won three straight Player of the Year awards (joining late, great Reggie Lewis as the only players in league history to win the award three times), leading the Catamounts to the NCAA tournament each time. His 14 Player of the Week awards are tied with former-NBA player Vin Baker for the most in America East history.
Coppenrath scored a combined 80 points in the league title game over his last two seasons at Vermont, earning championship MVP honors both years. His 43 points in the 2004 Championship Game (despite missing the previous three weeks and playing the entire game in a brace because of a broken wrist) remain an America East Championship Game record. Coppenrath, of course, would lead the Catamounts to their historic first-round upset of Syracuse University in the 2005 NCAA Tournament as a senior.
After turning pro, Coppernath went to training camp with the Boston Celtics in 2005 and Indiana Pacers in 2006, coming that close to making the league (according to several NBA insiders, if not for persistent back injuries that have nagged him throughout his career, Coppenrath would have been all but guaranteed at least a cup of coffee in the league).
Even though he came up short of his NBA dreams, Coppenrath has followed up one of the greatest college careers in America East history with one of the most successful professional careers of any AE alumn. In his eight years as a pro, Coppernath has played in the Euroleague (a trans-national league made up of the best teams from across Europe), as well as the top league’s in Greece (A1), Italy (SerieA), Spain (ACB – regarded as the top domestic league in the world outside of the NBA) as well as the second-division in Spain (LEB Oro) – all regarded as top domestic leagues.
After winning three league titles in college, as a professional, all Coppenrath has done is win. The LEB Oro (or LEB Gold) may be the second division in Spain, but it is widely regarded as a top-five league in Europe and Coppernath has entrenched himself as one of the league’s best players, guiding three different teams to the championship and a spot in the ACB the following season (the regular season and post season champions of the second division move up to the first division and the bottom two first division teams drop down to the following year).
Now Coppenrath has a chance to do it a fourth time, leading Lucentum Alicante (a team he has previously guided to a championship) through the playoffs and into a best-of-five championship series. Coppenrath’s eighth season of pro ball may have been his best, as he has averaged a team-best 14 points per game while shooting a robust 58.5 percent from the floor to go along with 5.8 rebounds (good for second on his team).
Coppenrath’s quest for his seventh championship (and fourth as a pro) tips off Friday, May 24, in a best-of-five game series.
If his career hadn’t coincided with Coppenrath’s, Bell would likely have been regarded as the premier America East power forward of his era. (more…)