Transferring back to the mid-major ranks is something that many athletes don’t look at as a positive.
It’s often a sign of limited playing time or uncomfortably. For Sam Sessoms, he had no problem with either of those. He just wanted to feel like he was back in the trenches of both his hometown of Philadelphia and the Division-I college basketball world.
“For one, Baltimore is just like my home of Philadelphia — just a lot smaller in my opinion. But the area that I grew up in, the same socioeconomic status, the same violence and poverty that go on. Even the way they dress sometimes too,” Sessoms said. “I went to Penn State, the Power 5 in the Big Ten Conference. They got a lot of things as far as gear, fans, money and resources. I had that for two years and in a sense it’s like, kids who go to the Power 5 are privileged, especially when you’re comparing it to MEAC schools, especially one like Coppin State. When I committed to Coppin State it was a lack of resources, lack of fans, lack of people that are there and willing to help us. In the trenches of Philadelphia where I am from, you don’t have that many resources, fans, or believers. You have to get out of the mud and that’s the kind of feel I got at Coppin State.”
Sessoms has had no issue adapting, becoming one of the most productive players in the nation. Through the first 11 games, he has averaged 23.9 points and six assists per game while shooting 53% from the field and 40.6% from behind the arc. In advanced statistics, he ranks in the Top 20 in three KenPom categories, including assist rate, percentage of minutes played, and percentage of possessions used.
At 4-7, he has Coppin State one win away from tying the school record for non-conference wins in a season and has CSU close to the highest KenPom ranking in Juan Dixon’s head coaching career.
But, wins aren’t on one player's back.
Coppin State has a loaded backcourt and one that Sessoms thinks is one of the best that he’s played with in his collegiate career.
That’s because of Nendah Tarke. He’s has been Coppin’s star during the last three seasons and continues to make strides. Last season, he led the nation in buzzer beaters, steals per game and made the First-Team All-MEAC.
NENDAH TARKE WINS IT!— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) March 10, 2022
After starting the season 1-14, Coppin State upsets 2-seed Howard and advances to the MEAC semis. pic.twitter.com/sxYdnnlM7A
“I don’t think many people realize how crazy of an athlete he is,” Sessoms said. “He’s probably the best backcourt defender that I’ve ever played with in my college career. He’s a freak of nature”
Of course, playing with someone of that caliber it is hard to stop both of them. It showed on Saturday afternoon at Loyola (MD).
Tarke scored eight points, racked up 10 rebounds, and picked up five steals. Pretty solid. Sessoms though, went crazy himself, setting a season-high in scoring. Through 39 minutes of action, he scored 33 points. With time running down in a tie game, the ball of course had to be in his hands.
With that, the rest was history.
“Once they tied the game up, I think we had one timeout left, knowing Coach (Dixon) and his trust in me, he was willing to allow me to come up and get an ISO,” Sessoms said. “I was feeling it, I was confident. The dude who was guarding me, I was just basically telling him ‘This is over man.’”
The charisma, the shot, the passion, the win. Everything you love to see out of a college basketball player.
It also awarded him his fourth consecutive MEAC Player of the Week award.
“Coppin’s a school, where if you’re winning, they’ll come out,” Sessoms said. “I believe we had the mayor at one of our games. We have people who want to see Coppin State win. It has a nice history of winning. Baltimore is better when Coppin State is winning.”
(I echo that sentiment. They’re Baltimore’s team. People care about Coppin State.)
They’ll look to tie the program record for non-conference wins on Sunday, as Coppin State travels to ECU. After that, they’ll have four local chances to add to it.