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Watertown’s Marco Coppola making his own mark on NEWMAC courts

Watertown’s Marco Coppola was leading Worcester Polytechnic Institute in scoring, assists, and steals through 12 games.

The Coppola brothers share much in common.

Anthony and Marco each played on Division 3 state championship teams at Watertown High for coach Steve Harrington, were two-time captains, 1,000-point career scorers, and Globe Dream Teamers.

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Anthony graduated from Wheaton College last year as the second all-time leading scorer for the men’s basketball program, and the first player to earn all-conference honors four times.

Marco has charted a different course as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but once again, it appears that coaches in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference have to plan around a Coppola.

Through 12 games, the 6-foot point guard was leading WPI in scoring (16.3 points per game), assists (4.4 per game) and steals (22), and was third with a 3.5 rebounding average.

“We’ve had four All-Americans in the past eight years and yet I feel Marco is the most talented player to come here in my 11 seasons,’’ said WPI coach Chris Bartley. “That’s putting a lot on his shoulders, but he’s up for the challenge. Marco wants to be the very best and he’s getting better every day.

“He had a stat line in our fourth game that to me was amazing for a freshman - 11 assists and zero turnovers in our win over Salem State.’’

Off to a 10-2 start, WPI has strung together eight consecutive 20-win seasons under Bartley, qualifying for the NCAA Division 3 tournament six of the last seven years.

Coppola has stepped into the lineup for graduate Jeff Robinson, the conference’s Player of the Year last season.

“It’s a great challenge trying to fill J-Rob’s shoes,’’ said Coppola.

“My immediate goal was to just get quality minutes but my expectations keep growing. Just stepping out on the floor for our opening game,’’ an 86-44 win over Husson, “was a feeling that’s hard to describe, especially because of Anthony’s success in college.

“I went to as many Wheaton games as I could, and it gave me an early indication of how much quicker and physical I had to be at the next level, and I think being in so many postseason games in high school taught me a lot about playing under pressure.’’

The Coppola brothers teamed up on a pair of summer league teams last year and also went 1-on-1 and lifted weights. Anthony, who was also recruited by WPI, said he supports his brother’s decision to establish his own identity as a college player.

“We’re brothers, but also best friends who learn from each other,’’ said the elder Coppola, who owns Wheaton’s single-game scoring record with 41 points.

“I’m so excited and proud for him and I knew he’d do well as a college player because of how hard he’s worked. Our only regret is that we just missed being high school teammates. He was in eighth grade when I was a senior.’’

Marco, who led Eastern Massachusetts in scoring (26.0 ppg.) on his way to earning Middlesex League MVP honors as a senior, credits Harrington - who is close friends with Bartley - with his development.

“He’s helped me more than anyone about playing under control, making the right decisions and becoming an all-around player,’’ said Coppola, whose father, Emilio, was captain of the basketball team at Watertown High in 1981. His sisters, sophomore captain Gabriella and freshman Gianna, star in the backcourt on the Watertown High girls’ team.

“This year’s a lot easier than last when we had four children playing on four different teams,’’ said their mother, Maria. “Basketball has been a big part of our lives for so many years, and it’s been very special.’’

Coppola’s teammates at WPI include freshman guard Sam Longwell, an Acton-Boxborough Regional High grad; freshman guard Matt Harrington and sophomore forward Chad LaBove from St. John’s High in Shrewsbury; junior forward Joe Wesoloski of Arlington Catholic; and freshman forward Wil Michalski of Shrewsbury High.

Geary out front for Purple Knights

St. Michael’s junior hockey captain Josh Geary of Wellesley helped the Purple Knights place second last weekend at the college’s Holiday Classic.

His goal nine seconds into overtime gave St. Michael’s a 5-4 victory over Salve Regina University in the tournament’s opening game. Geary was leading the team in scoring with nine points, including six assists. He was assisted on his OT goal by freshman defenseman Mark Higgins of Plainville.

“Josh came down the left wing and he’s a left-handed shot and just beat the Salve goalie inside the far post,’’ said St. Michael’s head coach Chris Davidson. “He’s been one of our most consistent forwards, and he was a unanimous choice to be our captain because he’s a standup individual.’’

Geary, a Bay State Conference MVP and scoring leader at Wellesley High, also played hockey at Phillips Academy in Andover.

Davidson said Higgins, who played at the Kent School in Connecticut and for the Bridgewater Bandits, has the presence of a veteran. “Mark has been the steadiest of our defensemen,’’ he said. “He’s a strong skater who’s tough to play against one-on-one.’’

Gustafson shines in pool

Bluefish Swim Club standout Aaron Gustafson, 17, of Franklin was fourth overall while winning the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke events at the New England Swimming Senior Championship last month at Boston University.

He also competed for three second-place Bluefish relay teams.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@ rcn.com.
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