published Friday, April 19th, 2013

Bradley Central Bears' Copeland staying close at Lee

  • photo
    Bradley Central's Bryce Copeland (10) runs down a loose ball during the region final with Ooltewah at the Cleveland High School Gym in this February file photo.
    Photo by Robin Rudd.
    enlarge photo

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Bradley Central senior guard Bryce Copeland recently signed to continue his basketball career at nearby NCAA Division II member Lee University.

Copeland, who has been named to all-state teams in both basketball and football, scored more than 1,500 points in his indoor Bears career. He was on two Class AAA sectional teams, and the Bears won their first region championship since 2007 this past season.

The 6-foot guard led them in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. He was a four-year starter at quarterback as well, accounting for 8,160 yards of total offense and 83 touchdowns.

"It's a great opportunity and I look forward to it," he said of Lee. "I liked the program, and the coaches seemed cool; they were the most consistent in terms of calling and texting me. I like their style of play and think I can fit in, plus it's local and I can still watch [brother] Cole and [sister] Brooke play.

"I'm glad to be a part of it."

Cole will be a Bradley freshman, while Brooke will be a senior and is highly regarded in recruiting circles.

"When he was a freshman, I observed that he had the 'it' factor," Bradley coach Kent Smith said of Bryce. "He had all of the qualities; he didn't just want to win games, he wanted to win in practice. In my 17 years here, there aren't many that have made the impact that he's had."

Cougars get Whitmire

Fellow Bradley senior Matthew Whitmire, a 6-foot-6 post, signed Thursday morning to continue his career at Cleveland State. Whitmire was the Bears' second-leading scorer and rebounder.

"I watched him over the summer before his senior year and saw the improvement that he had made," Smith said. "We went up against some pretty good competition and he wasn't intimidated. He was pretty consistent from 12 feet and is as solid a person as any mom and dad would want for their son.

"It's a great add for Lee Cigliano at Cleveland State."

Whitmire feels there are some things he has to work on, but he is happy for the opportunity with the Cougars.

"This is what the coaches here at Bradley push for," he said. "I've seen that level of play, and I have a lot of work to get to that level. I have to get stronger and work on my ball-handling, but I hope to have a great two years there.

"It's a great opportunity."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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