Coburn taking advantage of new opportunities at Hofstra
Basketball may not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions New York City. However, each bounce of a basketball drives the pulse of a city, with streetball courts all around. NBA players and streetball legends go to Rucker Park to create memories that last a lifetime. Being surrounded by this much basketball would be enough to sink its hooks into any kid growing up in the city.
It did just that for Tareq Coburn, though not as early as others.
The Rosedale, Queens, native didn’t actually play basketball recreationally until he was in the eighth grade, when his cousin got him involved in basketball and put him on a team.
“He showed me how to play basketball ... he showed me how to shoot,” Coburn said. “I just started grinding from there”.
Coburn stuck to the sport, attending Cardozo High School where he would eventually grow into the star of the team as a senior. On a team that featured two other players
that would play Division I basketball, per game he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He emerged as a dynamic scorer who could knock down threes at a high rate and get to the rim and possessed the length and athleticism to bother teams at the defensive end.
After leading his team to a championship in the Public School Athletic League’s Queens Division, he took his talents upstate, attending St. Bonaventure University. Unfortunately, he didn’t play much for the Bonnies, logging only 28 minutes over the course of 11 games. At the end of the year, he began to see the writing on the wall in regard to his playing time and decided that a change of scenery and an opportunity would be for the best.
“I wanted to go somewhere closer to home. The only reason why I transferred was because I felt like the same returning cast was going to be there,” Coburn said. “The coach didn’t want me to play the small forward position, he wanted me to be the [shooting] guard, and the [shooting guard] and point guard didn’t come out of the game at all”.
Going back the recruiting trail again just a year after graduating high school, Coburn sought out the comfort of familiarity. He wanted to look at colleges that recruited him coming out of high school, because he already had a sense for the coaches and his potential role. Considering he also wanted to be closer to home, Hofstra became his university of choice, being only about 25 minutes away from Rosedale.
Part of what makes Hofstra unique as a team this year is the production of transfer students. Players like Coburn, Jacquil Taylor and Dan Dwyer have played key roles for Hofstra. The three have appeared in every game for the Pride this year, Taylor and Coburn primarily as starters.
However, what separates Coburn from Taylor and Dwyer is that Coburn isn’t a graduate transfer. According to NCAA rules, non-graduate transfers have to sit out at least a year when transferring to a new program. So even though he’s only been allowed to play in games starting this season, Coburn has been able to practice with the team for the past two seasons. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to travel with the team.
As the season wore on and practices got less intense, Coburn had to find more ways to keep himself in game shape on his own time.
“The first two months, you get used to the team’s plays in practice. But after a while you start to play on the scout team,” Coburn said. “I worked out a lot with my strength coach. I still worked out with my assistant coaches, so I could just get better for next year”.
Even when that next year came, Coburn was still not a key member of the rotation. Over the first three games of the season, he only played a total of 26 minutes. His fourth game, against Big Ten opponent University of Maryland, proved to be his breakout game. He played 23 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds, helping Hofstra stay competitive against a team that was undefeated at the time.
“It was all about being patient. [We] had returning starters from last year, so I knew I had to accept what I was doing in the beginning,” Coburn said. “I was waiting for a big opportunity, playing against a bigger school where I might be needed more or whoever needs to step up. I was waiting to step up, waiting for a better opportunity.”
From there, he earned himself more minutes, even getting his first start in a 89-73 win against Rider University.
Since his first start, he’s become a consistent scoring option for the Pride, playing a key role as a starter for 13 of the 16 games in Hofstra’s historic win streak. He’s scored double digit points in 13 games, even eclipsing 20 points twice.
While his numbers (8.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG) don’t jump off of the page, his impact does. Coburn is an incredibly efficient shooter from beyond the arc, shooting 44.4 percent from three-point range in 99 attempts. His efficient scoring ability balances out Hofstra’s scoring, allowing the team to not have to rely on Justin Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton as the main sources of offense.
“[I’ve] had a sense of confidence ever since high school. I was always a shooter,” Coburn said.
Not only is he an efficient scorer, his energy and presence on defensive is invaluable to this team. His length and athleticism plays into Hofstra’s zone-heavy defense, as he can switch and guard most positions, and create distractions in the passing lanes.
“I’m a good scorer. I’m an energy guy. I grab a lot of rebounds,” Coburn said. “This year, I’m playing the power forward because we [play with] four guards out, [with] really good guards.”
Despite a recent lull in conference play, Coburn still expects a solid finish, with a potential for the school to reach March Madness for the first time since 2001.
“We’re all going to play hard and hopefully get to the NCAA [Tournament],” he said.
The team may have played their last home game, but you can still watch Coburn and the Pride take the court next on Thursday, Feb. 28, in Philadelphia against the Drexel University Dragons and in the upcoming Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament.
Photo courtesy of Cam Keough