When the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball season came to a definitive close last March, Quadir Copeland already knew he was coming back. It didn’t matter if Jim Boeheim was the head coach or if it was Adrian Autry. He would return either way and he had an inkling that the freshmen class that he came in with would be coming back, too. But there was a particular value that he felt he had to abide by in his particular situation.
“I was locked. I’m big on loyalty. I think I said that in the past. I’m big on loyalty and I knew my guys were staying,” Copeland said of his decision to return to Syracuse.
It wasn’t long ago when it was assumed players would return the following year to the same program if they had eligibility remaining — unless they stated otherwise. But as part of a new normal in college sports, those with the ability to use their one-time free transfer sometimes execute that option. Players transfer for myriad reasons. No longer rigidly tied to a university or coach with punitive transfer penalties, there are more player freedoms now. It’s not unusual for players to transfer when they haven’t been given playing time.
But if Copeland’s unwavering commitment to come back to Syracuse for a sophomore season wasn’t enough, he took it a step further by seeing it his duty to get his teammates to do the same.
“My job was really convincing everybody to come back,” Copeland said of his fellow freshman class.
Autry also made a compelling case for the freshmen to come back with plans of playing man-to-man defense, picking up the pace on offense and deploying a deeper bench. They were all convinced. How much say Copeland had is up for debate, but with Judah Mintz delaying the NBA for at least one more season, the entire freshman class that played in Boeheim’s final season returned to Syracuse.
Whether it was the NBA or Syracuse, Copeland said he wanted Mintz to make the best decision for himself, but admits he was excited by his return. He describes Mintz as “my best friend here.”
When the offseason began Copeland returned home to work on his game and spend time with family. He went to Gettysburg to spend time with his mom. He acknowledged that going the majority of his eight month freshman season without family was a bit of an adjustment.
In the gym Copeland spent time working on his jumpshot. Those around the program noted that Copeland has been a standout at practice and they’re aware of his improvement since last season. His head coach mentioned the development of his shooting ability.
“Quadir Copeland has really worked hard on his jumpshot,” Autry said. “He’s really improved that.”
What did the work look like over the offseason?
“We have a thing where we gotta to get 1400 shots up a week,” Copeland elaborated. “Really just been staying on track of that, trying to keep my percentages over 60s and 70s. You gotta think that’s open shots, it’s going to go down when contested. But just holding myself to a higher standard.”
Like many young kids, Copeland wanted to be like his dad when he was growing up. It’s the reason why he tried boxing when he was little. But once Copeland saw “how cool” basketball was after watching his older brother, Daiquan, play, he decided he would play as well. Daiquan transferred to Coppin State in the offseason after playing at Morgan State in 2022-23
It’s the first stage of life that we all participate in where we emulate what those around us are doing. For Copeland, this served him well. What makes him unique, however, is his affable demeanor and willingness to engage others. The loquacious Copeland sets the cultural tone for the basketball team as a glue guy who plays selflessly and binds the team together. At media day from the Melo Center, he playfully jumped into teammates’ conversations with reporters. Not so much in a way to steal their thunder, but as a way to get them to and laugh and let their guard down.
It’s reminiscent of a former Syracuse basketball personality also from Philadelphia — one Scoop Jardine, whose flair on the court and personality off the court strike similar to Copeland. Both passionate players that at times play a high-risk, high-reward kind of game. Sometimes adventurous, but always memorable. The two outgoing guards from Philadelphia met up this past summer as Jardine worked out Copeland.
“He didn’t ask for anything,” Copeland said or Jardine. “He just told me ask as many questions as possible.”
Jardine, who starred at Syracuse from 2007-2012, finished sixth in program history in assists and second in steals. He played on two of the best Syracuse basketball teams in history in 2010 and 2012. He emphasized to Copeland that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to play major division one basketball at programs like Syracuse where they’re from.
“You got a chance to continue this history. Make it bigger and make it better. Don’t take your opportunity for granted,” Jardine told Copeland.
Jardine shared his wisdom with Copeland and encouraged him to carry the Philadelphia torch at Syracuse.
“He just told me ‘Cuse has always been a Philly guard thing,” Copeland continued.
Jardine played with his high school teammate Rick Jackson at Syracuse as well as Dion Waiters, all from the Philadelphia area. Hakim Warrick was from Philadelphia, too. Now teammate Naheem McLeod joins Copeland as Philadelphia players on the roster, who Copeland says he’s known before McLeod transferred to Syracuse.
Last season Copeland’s minutes were few and far between as a freshmen with talent and experience in front of him in the rotation. Still, he remained engaged with enthusiasm from the bench. When he got into the game he was a sparkplug, although at times his eagerness to make plays got the best of him. This year Copeland will need to play with that same zest, while knowing when to reel it in at certain times. That will come with experience, but Copeland is expected see an expanded role in his sophomore season behind a coach who plans to go deeper into his bench.
Copeland thinks of himself as a point guard. He’s most comfortable with the ball in his hands and making plays off the dribble, but he understands the crowded backcourt situation. He’s happy to play any role his team needs.
“At the end of the day, whatever I can do to help the team win. No matter if it’s the one, two, three, four or the five. I’m going to do what I have to do. I’m on the court, I can’t complain really about anything. Just being able to get an opportunity is enough for me,” Copeland finished.