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Eight from East Texas area complete collegiate athletic careers

By Dan Chamness
June 24, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

T his is the third of four articles summarizing the careers of athletes who finished their careers during the 2009-10 school year. The articles will run every Friday until all athletes are profiled.

The start date for the 2010-11 school year will be the first or second Friday in September. If anyone wants to add a name to my growing list, please e-mail me ( I will need the name of the athlete, the former high school, the college/university they are attending and of course, the sport they are playing. With each e-mail, please put "Longview News Journal" in the subject line.


If Scott Copeland - a former Southern Miss, Panola College and White Oak pitcher - can improve at the same rate he did between his junior and senior seasons, a stop in the big leagues level is a definite possibility. Copeland currently pitches for the Aberdeen IronBirds, a Baltimore Orioles' Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

During his senior season, Copeland went 11-1 with a 3.75 earned run average, 64 strikeouts and 25 walks in 96 innings, earning third-team all-America honors, the Conference-USA tournament MVP and first-team all-conference recognition.

Copeland was 2-5 with a 6.41 era as a junior after transferring from Panola College, where he went 12-9 and earned all-conference honors as a sophomore.

Copeland has allowed one earned run in two innings with two strikeouts and three walks for Aberdeen, which is 2-4 in the New York Penn League's McNamara Division.

The son of Janet and Glenn Copeland of White Oak majored in sports coaching.

<strong>KYLE POPE</strong>

ETBU may have struggled to a 14-25 mark this year, but every baseball team has its shining stars. Kyle Pope, a Spring Hill graduate, was just that for ETBU. He was one of two players to hit over .400, posting a .431 batting average with five home runs, 36 RBIs, 13 doubles, three triples, 32 runs scored, 19 stolen bases and 14 walks, leading ETBU in average, hits (66), doubles and steals. Pope set a school record with a 29-game hitting streak as well.

In his first two years with the Tigers, Pope hit .386. He finished his career with a .400 average, becoming the fourth Tiger in school history to hit .400 for his career. Pope was a first-team American Southwest Conference selection as a senior, following up consecutive second-team picks as a junior and sophomore. He was awarded the ETBU Top Tiger all three years as he was named the top ETBU athlete in the classroom.

Pope, a left-handed hitter, is the son of Dwaine and Maria Pope. He worked toward an accounting degree at ETBU. For his work in the classroom, he was named to the ESPN The Magazine/COSIDA All-American Team, posting a 3.91 grade-point average during his athletic career.

<strong>MATT HALE</strong>

At 6-5, 220 pounds, it might be surprising that Matt Hale was not a football player in college.

Hale, the son of Sandy and Scott Hale - Jefferson High School's football coach - has played football, but he was a good college baseball player. In his three years at ETBU, Hale finished with a career average of .294. The former Tatum Eagle hit 16 career homers and 18 career doubles, driving in 76 runs and scoring 84 as he started 100 of the 115 games he appeared.

During his senior season, Hale had five homers, 20 RBIs, seven doubles, 25 runs and 16 walks. In the field, he posted the team's best fielding percentage, committing two errors in 226 plays for a .992 fielding percentage.

Hale earned his degree in business administration. He also received a management minor.

<strong>ASHLEY WILBURN</strong>

Only one time in her softball career did Ashley Wilburn have a losing pitching record.

During her freshman year at Stephen F. Austin State, she was 9-14. But, since her freshman year, she has won 49 games and lost only 11 as a member of the Oklahoma City University softball team. In 429 innings, she posted a 1.57 ERA, striking out 465 batters while walking 137.

As a senior, Wilburn went 15-4 with a 1.85 ERA, 149 strikeouts and 36 walks in 143 2/3 innings, which including 13 complete games for a team that finished second at the NAIA Nationals.

The past two years, Wilburn was named to the Sooner Athletic Conference first team. In 2009, she was named to the NAIA Southwest Region second team and the NAIA All-American second team. In 2010, she was a second team All-American and a Southwest Region First Team selection.

Wilburn, the daughter of Henry and Renesia Wilburn, earned a marketing degree.

<strong>ALLISON SHEPPERD</strong>

If she was available to start, she did. Allison Shepperd, a Marshall graduate and Centenary College softball player, started 178 of 179 games during her college career.

Shepperd finished with a .294 career batting average, 16 homers, 98 RBIs, 41 doubles, four triples, 91 runs, 39 walks and 34 steals. As a senior, Shepperd had three homers, 19 RBIs, 11 doubles, 19 runs, six walks and six steals. She was twice named to the Summit League's all-conference team and was also selected to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-Louisiana second team. She was named to the Summit League All-Tournament team in 2008.

The daughter of Leroy and Laura Shepperd of Marshall is slated to graduate in December 2010 with a physical education degree.

<strong>JARED FLEMING</strong>

Jared Fleming started as a bit player on the UT Dallas basketball team. He finished as a key cog on a team that went 24-6 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

As a senior, the Hawkins product averaged 11.2 points per game for third-best on the UT Dallas roster. He also dished out a team-high 3.3 assists per game and shot better than 80 percent from the free-throw line.

Fleming finished his college craeer with 499 points, including 105 three-pointers.

<strong>JAMES HARDIN</strong>

From Lone Star Conference runner-up to NCAA Division II All-American. Such is the life of James Hardin, a Hallsville product.

Hardin, who was the runner-up in the LSC in 2007 and 2008, finished 11th on the outdoor national stage a year ago.

But no year was greater than 2010. Hardin placed sixth in the heptathlon during the indoor finals and then finished in the same position in the decathlon. Hardin's two best events were the high jump and the javelin, and when the decathlon or heptathlon was not contested, Hardin would be competing in those events.

During the outdoor season, Hardin finished with ACU's top javelin throw of the year (54.62 meters) and the top high jump of the year (1.84 meters). He posted ACU's top height in the high jump during the indoor season as well, posting a leap of 1.86 meters.

<strong>ZACH GIDEON</strong>

Since his sophomore year at Sul Ross State, Hallsville graduate Zach Gideon has made life difficult for opposing offenses.

Gideon's intimidating size - 6-3, 310 pounds - is only part of it. The American Southwest Conference all-conference performer at defensive end/nose tackle finished with 32 tackles, including four for loss.

Gideon's sophomore season saw him record 42 tackles, six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. In his final three years of college football, Gideon made 110 tackles, 22 for loss.



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