07/25/06 — MOC star spends part of summer down under

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MOC star spends part of summer down under

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on July 25, 2006 2:16 PM

During the 2005-06 season, Elton Coffield established a career high with 35 points against Pfeiffer in the semifinal round of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.

That total is now only his best single-game scoring performance in the Northern Hemisphere.

Elton Coffield, a rising senior at Mount Olive, joined a group of basketball student-athletes from college division schools on a trip to Australia under the auspices of USA Athletes International, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for amateur athletes to participate in international competition.

Coffield and his teammates spent 12 days in June in Australia, starting on the Gold Coast and then flying to Melbourne. Coffield says the climate was a departure from the heat wave currently gripping most of the U.S.

"The Gold Coast was comfortable, kind of like our fall," said Coffield, who noted that Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson own houses on the Gold Coast. "But it felt like winter in Melbourne. It was even colder in the gym than it was outside. When I was on the bench, I had to wear my jacket and hood."

The team played two exhibition games, then competed in the Melbourne Tigers 21-U Tournament. Coffield says it didn't take long for the players to perform as a team.

"We all got along pretty well," said Coffield. "After we got our first two games under our belt, we all knew our roles and put it together."

Coffield says he and his teammates had to make a few adjustments during the tournament. Games were played on an international-sized court, with a bigger lane and a longer three-point line. Also, instead of two 20-minute halves, games were played in four 12-minute quarters, just as in the NBA.

"I'm not used to playing that many minutes," said Coffield, who has averaged 27.5 minutes per game over the past two seasons at Mount Olive. "I don't know how they do it in the NBA."

Coffield's role was different on this team than it is at Mount Olive under head coach Bill Clingan. For one, Coffield played more minutes in the post than on the perimeter. For another, the team's offense centered around Coffield, something he admits he had difficulty adjusting to.

"I feel like I do better playing within a system," said Coffield. "I don't really think of myself as a one-on-one player. I'm not really comfortable with that. But they kept giving me the ball and kept urging me on."

Opposing teams should be nervous if Coffield ever does start to feel comfortable as a one-on-one player. He poured in 51 points in one game, hitting 4-of-5 three-point attempts and doing most of his damage from the free throw line. He had 29 points in the first half. Coffield says he wasn't even paying attention to his point total during the game.

"I didn't even know how many points I had until a kid came up to me after the game and told me," said Coffield. "Then he asked me to sign his shirt."

For the tournament, Coffield averaged 33 points per game. His average likely would have been higher, but he was rested for the entire fourth quarter of the final game after scoring 22 points through three quarters.

Coffield won a lot of fans in Australia, but he admits he drew some heat from the crowd during one game.

"I got booed on a fast break because I went for a layup instead of a dunk," joked Coffield. "But I dunked the next time and the fans cheered for me again. I guess they don't see a lot of dunking down there."

Coffield's team posted a 5-1 record in the tournament, competing against developmental teams. Coffield was impressed by how the other teams performed the basics.

"I was amazed how well all of the teams executed the fundamentals," said Coffield. "They were very disciplined in practices and warm-ups. I think that's a big part of why the rest of the world is catching up to the U.S."

The trip marked Coffield's first-ever visit to a foreign country. He tried to take in the Australian culture, but decided not to experiment with culinary delights from down under. So no, he never ordered a vegemite sandwich.

He also admits he had difficulty adjusting to the 15-hour time change, both in Australia and when he returned home.

"When I was in Australia, I had to do the math to figure out when to call my parents and not wake them up," said Coffield. "It was even tougher after I got back home. I was waking up at 3:30 a.m. wanting dinner."

Time change notwithstanding, Coffield was impressed with how the tour was conducted and the reception the team received from the Australian people.

"We had our own personal tour guide who told us about Australian history," said Coffield. "Everybody down there treated us very nicely. USA International did a good job. We stayed in apartment-style houses and (USA International) gave us nice jerseys. Off the court, visiting the zoo at the Gold Coast was a great experience."

Coffield has some advice for any student-athlete who has an opportunity to participate on an overseas athletics trip.

"Any chance you have to visit another country to play a sport and to represent your country, I think you should take it."