VALDOSTA –– Damarri Copeland is a point guard for Highland Christian's boys’ varsity basketball team.
The junior is in his second year at Highland and in his first season as a starter with the team, as he was a reserve last season.
Originally from Valdosta, Copeland moved to Jacksonville, Fla., for a few years before returning home and playing at Lowndes for a year, before ultimately making the move to Highland.
The junior is enjoying his time with the Eagles and feels like he is exactly where he is supposed to be.
“I feel like, at Highland, there is a really positive environment as a whole,” Copeland said. “The school and the team are all both close and there is just a great overall chemistry.”
In addition to becoming full-time starter this year, Copeland is also playing for a new head coach following the departure of longtime coach Joel Stites, who now coaches at Lanier County.
According to Copeland, new Eagles coach Randy Arnold and his staff have done a great job preparing him and his teammates for games.
“Coach Arnold and the staff, they push us to be great,” Copeland said. “We watch film and they teach us there as well. The most important thing that they teach, is for us to just go out and have fun.”
While Copeland and Highland have had some games canceled due to the uncertainties of COVID-19, they were able to play three games before the cancellations.
In the first two games, Copeland helped lead his team to decisive victories over St. Teresa and Heritage Academy.
In their third game, Dec. 8, Highland lost 55-48 to rival Georgia Christian –– a game they seemed to have in hand, leading by 13 points at halftime.
“We have to fix a few things after that loss,” Copeland said. “I feel like we got complacent there in the fourth, and that allowed for our opponent to get back in the game. We have to learn to push through that and to finish, as we move forward.”
A year removed from making it to the state championship and suffering a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Trinity Prep, Copeland knew what he had to do for the 20-21 season.
“When we lost that state championship game, it motivated me,” Copeland said. “I knew right then that I wanted to be a leader of this team and that next season would be my chance to do that. I wanted to be the leader my team would need.
“I feel like this team has the tools to make it back to state this year. We have some little things that we need to clean up, but we have been there before, and we understand what we need to do to finish strong and win the state title. I have faith in this group and the coaches.”
As far as his future, Copeland has desires to play college basketball and reveals he has no preference as to where –– he just wants to play. He feels he can get there, and he has reasons why.
"My mom and my brother have sacrificed so much for me to be here,” Copeland said. “I am so grateful for them both and they motivate me to work hard. My nieces and nephews are another reason for my dedication and hard work. I am doing this for them, and myself.”
Copeland says the legacy he wants to leave behind from his time at Highland is one that is about others, and not himself.
“I want to be known as a selfless basketball player,” Copeland said. “I want to inspire the younger kids and show them that they can make it and do great things. I also want to show the team and the community how to have fun and enjoy us as a team.
“My energy levels are always up in the games and I want my team to feed off of that. I give 100% of myself at all times. I have a gift for the game that allows me to slow things down and to be able to read the defense and help my teammates succeed.”
Copeland hopes to lead his team to greater things as the 2020-21 season progresses. Highland hosts Fullington Academy in its next game Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m.