Coppin State men’s basketball sophomore Nendah Tarke recently chatted with PressBox about playing for Maryland legend Juan Dixon, what it’s like to play an up-tempo style and more. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Tarke averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game last year. He got the opportunity to play alongside his brother, Anthony, with the Eagles last year as well. Anthony won MEAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21.
PressBox: How did you become interested in basketball?
Nendah Tarke: I think watching it with my brother growing up. He took an interest in it. It kind of made me naturally take interest into it. Over time, it just became what we did.
PB: Did you grow up in a competitive environment with your brother as far as basketball?
NT: Definitely. There was a lot of competition, but there was also a lot of things we did together. At the end of the day, we’re both competitors. Growing up, it was definitely like that.
PB: Why did you choose to come to Coppin State? Was being teammates with your brother for one year part of the pull?
NT: That was the main part of it, just having the opportunity. We’ve always talked about one day how fun it would be, and Coppin made it happen. They made the dream come true of us playing together. That was great by them. I’m very grateful for that.
PB: Did you and Anthony play together in high school? Or was last year the first time you guys had played together?
NT: For a couple of games, that’s it. We both were on just travel teams. That was cool, but when it came to high school, I was on JV and he was on varsity, so even when I got moved up, my playing time wasn’t that much. … We had a little travel team that we were on. We played on that for a little bit. Last year in terms of a day-to-day, consistent [season], that was the first time.
PB: What’s your favorite memory so far at Coppin?
NT: Probably seeing Anthony win [MEAC] Player and Defensive Player of the Year because the year before, he was not getting that much playing time and it just wasn’t a great situation. So for him to come out like that and break through, I think that was definitely my greatest memory.
PB: What’s it like playing for Coppin head coach and Maryland legend Juan Dixon?
NT: It’s great. He gives you a lot of freedom to play your game and to be yourself. He’s very personable and relatable — the whole staff, honestly, is relatable. They all have one goal in mind. They don’t have any agendas. They want you to get better as a player and they want to win games. That’s something that I like to do as well, so we have the same sort of mindset when it comes to that kind of stuff.
PB: Coppin plays at a fast pace under Dixon. What’s it like to play in that kind of up-tempo system?
NT: It’s fun because when you’ve got multiple weapons, it’s easy to just get the ball and go. We want to play fast. We want to shoot early in the shot clock. We don’t want to run it down, so it’s fun. It’s fun playing in a system like this just because it really helps you grow as a player and you learn so much overall when the system is fast and go.
PB: What’s your favorite thing about Coppin and Baltimore?
NT: I guess how the coaches coach. They’re very detailed, and they’re very knowledgeable in what they’re talking about. I feel like in the past I haven’t had these kinds of coaches in terms of how they relay their messages, what they say, how they’re saying it, and the end goal is behind what they’re saying. They base a lot of what they do on the NBA. It’s like, “OK, well, if I’m trying to [play] like these guys, really coach me as if I am a professional,” and I really like that. … Baltimore, I feel like everyone is connected here. The whole environment and the vibe is pretty good. The people outside of Coppin, the people I’ve met, they all seem like they’re all for the same thing and they just love their city.
PB: Who was a player you looked up to early in your college career?
NT: I can go with my brother just because he’s been there, done that, so he showed me a lot of the ropes. But if I was to go with the professional route, I would definitely say I looked up to LeBron a lot — even now, just the way he plays, the way he carries himself, the way he handles his business. He never gets in trouble, that kind of thing. That’s the kind of person I strive to be.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
NT: Keep working hard and focus on what you’ve got to do. If you control what you can control, you give whatever you want to do your full, undivided attention, then things are going to work [themselves] out. The talent is always found. As long as you just stay diligent and keep working, eventually there will be a breakthrough.
PB: What are your goals for after basketball, whenever it ends?
NT: I just want to be somebody that’s constantly helping people no matter what that is, whether it’s financially, whether it’s physically, mentally, emotionally. I just want to be known as somebody who positively impacted a lot of people’s lives. However I can do that, I just want to be known for that — helping this world be a better place, honestly.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Coppin State Athletics