This is the sixth in our player profiles series. Previous entries have profiled L.J. Peak, Paul White, Tre Campbell, Trey Mourning, and the walk-ons.
Isaac Copeland, the fifth and final member of the freshman class, was both the first commit of the group and its highest-rated member. The Hoya faithful have been waiting for his arrival seemingly forever. On a Georgetown squad with plenty of available minutes at each forward position, will Copeland be an immediate star?
Statistics (senior year):15.6 ppg, 7 rpg
Recruiting: Four-/Five-star recruit; #16 ESPN, #38 Scout, #23 Rivals, #29 247, #28 RSCI
For much of his high school career, Copeland was more potential than production. The rangy forward was capable of doing almost anything, including hitting from the perimeter, handling the ball, finishing athletically around the rim, and covering the court on defense. Still, Copeland sometimes drifted in his early years, failing to play with intensity at all times. Between a questionable motor and a protracted knee injury, Copeland inspired evaluations that his "talent trumps his accomplishments."
That all began to change during his junior season. Copeland transferred from a local school in his native Raleigh, N.C. to the Miller School in Virginia, where he began to flourish with increased playing time and stronger competition. His considerable promise began to bear fruit, as Copeland averaged 14.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per contest in leading his team to a state championship.
That same season, another lanky forward was having a breakout season at Georgetown. While Copeland was quietly rising up the recruiting rankings, Otto Porter was carrying a short-staffed Hoya squad to a Big East regular season championship, which was capped with a 22-point blowout of Syracuse. Copeland was on hand for that frenzied, emotional win, saw what Otto had wrought, and committed to Georgetown soon thereafter.
Before his senior year, Copeland switched schools again, this time to national power Brewster Academy. Copeland explained that he recognized that he had work to prepare for Georgetown. He scarcely could have picked a better destination than Brewster, which plays a high-profile schedule and sends the bulk of its rotation to Division I college programs. (Note: Class of 2015 Georgetown commit Marcus Derrickson is spending this season honing his craft at Brewster.) Copeland excelled in a cast of blue-chip prospects, adding some muscle, becoming ever more assertive around the basket, and compiling an eye-popping highlight reel:
By the end of his senior year, Copeland had made the long journey from the scouting hinterlands to the recruiting elite, earning invitations to various all-star games and five-star status by some estimations.
At Kenner League this summer, Copeland satisfied expectations without quite creating the buzz that classmate LJ Peak generated. Copeland's jumper was fluid but not always accurate, and he showed the willingness to get to the rim, if not always the strength to finish there. The long, bouncy athleticism was an ever-present asset, as Copeland threw down an offensive rebound or two and making defensive plays all over the court. For the summer, Copeland averaged 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks, respectable if not gaudy numbers for Kenner League play.
By this point, we all know the lay of the land at forward this season: there are a lot of candidates but no sure things. With his tantalizing potential and blue-chip pedigree, Copeland may be the best bet to win front-court playing time. Copeland's perimeter-oriented offensive game should allow him to contribute as a spot-up shooter and timely cutter, providing some perimeter pop that was lacking at forward last season. On defense, Copeland is long and athletic enough to help cover for some of center Josh Smith's shortcomings around the rim. Those attributes also should be an asset in the full-court press JT3 has used in increasing doses in the past two seasons. Copeland could be a part of small-ball lineups featuring, for example, Peak, Jabril Trawick, Aaron Bowen, and Mikael Hopkins that could wreak havoc (if not HAVOC) in the open court. The real question will be whether Copeland is strong enough to help control opposing power forwards and seal off the boards. In some cases, he'll be matched up against opponents who have two or three years of experience and several pounds of bulk on him. Whether Copeland can hang with older, bigger foes will go a long way toward determining how much he can contribute this season.
Copeland's meteoric rise continues. He starts from day one and plays more than half of every game, giving sort of across-the-board production that approaches Otto Porter's freshman season. On offense, Copeland is an opportunistic finisher and hits enough of his jumpers to stretch opposing defenses. He plays stifling defense in the half court, gets steals in the open court, blocks the occasional shot, and shows enough bulk to defend opposing fours and compete underneath the hoop. Supporting conference player of the year D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and a newly svelte Smith, Copeland has a solid freshman campaign that sets him up for stardom in year two.
Copeland needs a year in the weight room and on the practice court. His jack-of-all-trades, king-of-none game means that he can't reliably contribute in any aspect of the game. Aside from a few exciting dunks of the sort that won him the Hoya Madness dunk contest, Copeland struggles offensively. His jumper is too inconsistent to make him a perimeter threat and he can't reliably get to the basket on or off the ball. He still needs to add a few pounds to be able to bang with larger power forwards. He finds himself competing with the rest of the unproven forward scrum to back up Hopkins at the four.