Imhotep alum helps GMU beat Dragons

Posted: February 15, 2013

THE DATE IS etched in Erik Copes' mind. Who could blame him?

After being injured in last year's conference tournament, Copes, a George Mason power forward/center by way of Imhotep Charter, feared the worst and got the worst. He had a torn labrum in his right hip. It's not exactly a common injury for a college freshman.

"It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life," said Copes, now a sophomore. "I was on crutches for a month. I had my surgery on April 19th. Exactly. I will never forget that date."

Copes was unable to work out until Aug. 15 and he wasn't cleared to play until mid-October. On Thursday night, Copes had another strong game as Mason pinned yet another home loss on Drexel, 68-62.

"This is the third straight game that he's put together consistent defense, rebounding and scoring around the basket well," said GMU coach Paul Hewitt. "He keeps getting healthier and healthier. I suspect our team will keep getting better and better."

Copes, a lunch-pail type going back to his days at Imhotep, mixed in eight rebounds and two blocks to go along with 12 points. The 33 minutes he logged were a career high.

While Mason won for the third time in four games, Drexel continues to wander through a season which now stands at 10-15 overall and 6-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Dragons led for most of the game, but failed to close things out and are now 3-8 at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Last season, Drexel was 15-1 there.

"We gotta make plays in the heart of the game," Flint said. "We can't miss foul shots, can't give up layups. Honestly, this is how it's been all season."

Damion Lee snapped a three-game scoring slump with 16 points, but that was of zero comfort to Flint. Drexel, after all, wiped out a 20-point deficit in a win at George Mason on Jan. 31 and had this one in its grasps. Up and down. Down and up.

"Damion Lee gave up two big baskets at the end of the game," Flint said pointedly. "Forget his offense. Dude, we need you to stop somebody."

Derrick Thomas also had 16 for the Dragons.

Vertrail Vaughns came off the bench with 14 points to lead the Patriots (15-10, 8-5). Copes had 10 of his 12 in the second half, including field goals with 5:06 and 4:35 left.

Copes grew up in the area of 56th & Jefferson in West Philly and knows the Drexel campus well. He originally had committed to George Washington University but changed schools when the coaching staff was dismissed. He followed his uncle, Roland Houston, who had been an assistant at GW, to George Mason.

Copes cited his mother, Rochetta, for providing the spiritual encouragement during his rehabilitation. Houston, who played at Rhode Island after a terrific career at Martin Luther King High in the 1970s, also was crucial in Copes' comeback from the injury.

"He was always there telling me that it was going to be fine, even though I wasn't playing very well," Copes said. "He said that [improvement] is going to come. He gave me a great saying: Tough times never last forever . . . but tough people do."

Dragon bites

Forward Kazembe Abif returned for Drexel after missing a game following a death in his family. He played 16 minutes . . . The Dragons' next game is at home Monday against Hofstra. They then play three on the road before finishing the regular season at home against UNC-Wilmington on March 2 . . . Former Sixer and Roman Catholic High product Marc Jackson was the analyst for CBS Sports Network's coverage . . . Officials Bryan Kersey and Mike Eades worked the game after handling North Carolina-Duke on Wednesday. The third ref, Jeffrey Anderson, did the Dayton-Rhode Island game Wednesday.

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