Nendah Tarke: Coppin State Men’s Basketball ‘Starting To Maximize What We Can Be’

The Coppin State men’s basketball team had a rough go of it during nonconference play, but after two wild wins in league play recently — one on a buzzer-beater and another coming in comeback fashion — sophomore guard Nendah Tarke believes the Eagles are starting to show what they’re capable of as a team.

Coppin went 1-14 during a brutal nonconference slate, which started with 12 games in the season’s first 25 days. All but one of those contests came on the road. The Eagles played road games against Loyola Chicago, DePaul, UConn and Virginia during that stretch.

Coppin is 4-15 overall but 3-1 in MEAC play entering its game against Maryland Eastern Shore Jan. 29, thanks in no small part to two crazy wins. On Jan. 15, Tarke hit a buzzer-beater from half-court to beat Morgan State, 79-76. And then on Jan. 24, the Eagles overcame a 26-point first-half deficit to beat Howard, 83-81. Tarke scored 19 points in that game.

Tarke, a native of Gaithersburg, Md., likes where his team sits with 10 league games still to play.

“We’re just trying to come together as a team, game by game,” Tarke said on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 26. “I feel like in the beginning of the season we didn’t really play to our potential. It’s a new team, a lot of new pieces. So we’re on a learning curve. As we [go through] conference play, we’re still trying to get better every day but we’re starting to hit our stride and we’re starting to maximize what we can be as a team.”

Indeed, there were a lot of new pieces to integrate. In fact, there were just five returning players, only three of whom played in games last year. Tarke was one of those three. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard is the only player on the team to start all 19 games this year. He’s averaging more than 33 minutes a game for a team that plays a high-tempo brand of basketball. He’s posting 13.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Oh, and that buzzer-beater:

“I’m not going to lie, I’ve watched it a lot,” Tarke joked.

Did he think the shot was good when it left his hand?

“I knew I released it in time,” Tarke said. “I knew there was only like 1.5 seconds, but I’m pretty good with my internal clock. I thought it was off to the left, actually. Because I was moving to the right, I had to put it to the left a little bit because of my momentum and I thought I missed it left. I knew the distance was good enough, but I thought I missed left and we were going to overtime.”

Tarke came to Coppin in 2020 with his brother, Anthony, who transferred in from UTEP to spend his final season of college ball with the Eagles. Naturally, there was competition between Nendah and Anthony as they grew up, but they hardly ever got the chance to play on the same team as one another.

But Coppin head coach Juan Dixon gave them a chance to do just that. Led by Anthony, the 2020-21 MEAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year, the Eagles went 8-4 in conference play and won the Northern Division regular-season title.

“Coming here, it was like, ‘OK, we have the opportunity to play with each other at a high level, so why not try to go for it?’ It was definitely a fun experience,” Nendah said. “And then playing for Coach Dixon, he tries to maximize everybody’s potential as a player, so us coming together was something that I’m definitely never going to forget. It was really fun.”

Tarke says Dixon has made him a better player on the court and a better person off of it. Dixon told PressBox that Tarke finished the 2020-21 season strong — he started the Eagles’ final five games — and had a productive offseason, allowing him to tap into his potential. Tarke has elevated his game of late, according to Dixon.

“The one thing that we had to continue working on with Nendah was just his mental approach to the game, and I think he’s gotten better,” Dixon said. “His emergence as a leader is really helping our ballclub having the success that we’ve been having. And most importantly, it’s given Nendah a certain confidence about his ability to go out and lead and lead the right way on both ends of the floor. I’m excited about his future.”

For more from Tarke, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Coppin State Athletics/Janelle Murphy

Luke Jackson

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