Sam Sessoms, who recently committed to Coppin State after playing the last two years at Penn State, says he chose Coppin because it was best decision for his basketball career for a few reasons, from the relationship he built with the Eagles’ coaching staff throughout the recruiting process to the chance to win a conference title.

Sessoms, a 6-foot, 189-pound guard out of Philadelphia, began his college career at Binghamton. He spent two seasons there (2018-2020), averaging 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in 62 contests. He made the jump to the Big Ten after that, landing at Penn State (2020-2022).

Though he had a productive career with the Nittany Lions (10.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 55 games), Sessoms never got the chance to play for the coach who recruited him. Pat Chambers, the coach at Penn State from 2011-2020, resigned just before the 2020-21 season. Sessoms played for current UMBC head coach Jim Ferry that season and Micah Shrewsberry this past year.

Playing for the same coach who recruited him appealed to Sessoms, who had a fifth year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Enter Coppin head coach Juan Dixon.

“First and foremost, it was honestly my relationship with the coaching staff,” Sessoms said on Glenn Clark Radio April 22 of his decision to commit to Coppin. “Me and Juan Dixon built a great relationship from Day 1 when I entered the transfer portal. I just wanted to get that relationship with the coaching staff.

“Also, I know that Coppin State lost in the championship game last season, so I feel like they’re in a great position to have success going into this year. I figured adding a player like myself to a team like that, that’s already one piece away from winning, I feel like it was an easy decision.”

Coppin finished 9-23 overall in 2021-22 due to the brutal nonconference slate typical for the program. However, the Eagles went 6-8 in the MEAC and advanced to the MEAC tournament finals, falling to Norfolk State with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.

Since the end of the season, Coppin has lost guard Jesse Zarzuela (14.7 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game last year), forward Tyree Corbett (13 points, 8.8 rebounds) and guard Kyle Cardaci (7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds) to the transfer portal.

Thus, there should be plenty of shots available heading into the 2022-23 season. Plus, Dixon runs an up-tempo system — the Eagles were No. 8 in adjusted tempo this past season, according to KenPom — and gives his players a lot of offensive freedom. But that wasn’t the reason Sessoms chose Coppin.

“It wasn’t really that because I was playing [close to] 30 minutes a game at Penn State,” Sessoms said. “It was more so my coaching staff at Penn State wasn’t the coaches that recruited me. My two years at Penn State, I had two different coaches and neither one of them recruited me, so I kind of wanted to get back to the feel of playing for the coach that recruited me and wanted me to be his rather than me just being left at a school and a new coach coming in.”

Though Zarzuela, Corbett and Cardaci have all left the program, one key player still with the team is guard Nendah Tarke, who averaged 13.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 2.7 assists per game for the Eagles last year. He will be a junior in 2022-23.

If Sessoms can produce like he did at Binghamton and Tarke can take another step forward, Coppin will have a chance to enjoy a special season in West Baltimore — and that’s exactly what Sessoms is chasing.

“Honestly, the only thing that’ll increase my money next year for my professional career will be leading a team to a championship,” Sessoms said. “I have a lot of personal accolades. I’ve played in the Big Ten. I’ve played in the America East. There’s a huge gap between them, so I’ve shown that I can play at all levels. Now I just need to show that I can lead a team to win. That would increase my chances of making a lot more money next year.”

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

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

Luke Jackson

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