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Erik says to me almost every day ‘What am I doing wrong? What do I need to do?’ ” Houston said. “Obviously, I’m hard on Erik. But if I’m not hard on Erik, Erik comes to me and says ‘What’s wrong with you?’ “

The thirst for knowledge is abetted by the presence of Morrison and Pearson. Copes is still learning how to play without fouling, though his overall production is limited by opportunity more than anything.

The man who faces him in practice every day knows better than anyone what the Patriots will have in the seasons to come.

Mason’s going to have a few more good years of solid big play,” Morrison said. “He’s really coming along early. He came in here one of the best shot-blockers. I told everybody that before he leaves, he will lead George Mason in shot-blocking, easily. No question.”

That departure won’t come for a while. Both Hewitt and Houston said Copes appreciates the steps he must take to become a dominant big man, even if it will take time.

Erik knows what he should be doing,” Hewitt said. “Erik knows where he’s supposed to be on the court, what his expectations are. He knows what he’s trying to do. I guarantee you he’s not checking to see where his stock is. He knows ‘I’m here for a process and I’m going to go through the process.’ “

Along the way, there remain some constants. Copes plays hard when he receives minutes. He’s tough, a reflection of both his uncle’s preferred style and his Philly roots.

Most importantly, he’s having fun on a first-place team.

“If you actually do those three things,” Copes said of his uncle’s advice, “I think you’ll be a good player.”

He’s well on his way to eventually being really good.