From Eagle to Aggie… from Southland Conference to Southeastern Conference.
Former Shawnee High School standout Taylor Cooper, after playing her freshman year at Oral Roberts University, has traded the navy blue for maroon. She will start classes at Texas A&M University on Aug. 26, and after sitting out the required first year following the transfer, she will don the uniform of an Aggie for the 2014-15 basketball season.
Cooper’s high school career was one to be reckoned with, and her time thus far on a college court is studded with accomplishments. Cooper helped lead Bethel High School’s Lady Wildcats to a Class 3A state title in 2011, and she repeated the feat the following year as one of the top performers in Shawnee’s undefeated 2012 Class 5A championship run.
As a true freshman, Cooper started every game of the 2012-13 season for ORU’s Golden Eagles. She averaged more than 10 points per game, had three games of 20 or more points, and finished her regular-season debut with five 3-point field goals and 19 total points.
Cooper helped the Golden Eagles secure a conference title and an appearance in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.
But she wanted something more — both on the court and off the court — and that prompted her decision to relocate.
“I wanted to be in a bigger conference. I wanted to play on a bigger stage,” said Cooper. “That’s one of the main reasons.”
Also, she said, all of the educational requirements she needs to pursue a degree in sports management and pre-law are offered at A&M.
“And that opens a lot of doors for her with that diploma,” said Cooper’s father, Jeff Cooper.
Cooper made official visits to five schools (including Texas Tech) before deciding on A&M, whose Aggies recently moved to the Southeastern Conference from the Big 12. The 2012 Shawnee High School grad made her choice July 5, and for a number of reasons.
One is head coach Gary Blair, a Hall of Fame inductee and two-time Naismith Coach of the Year Award finalist.
“He’s so down to earth,” Jeff said of Blair, who has been at the helm of the A&M women’s program for 10 years.
The Aggies, under Blair’s direction, brought home the 2011 national title.
Page 2 of 3 -
Coincidentally, Blair coached Shawnee High School head coach and former WNBA player Wendi Wells at the University of Arkansas. And Amy Wright, a first-year assistant for Blair, was a teammate of Wells.
“It’s top-notch… everything,” Cooper said of the A&M campus, facilities and coaching staff.
Also an enticement for Cooper to join the Aggies is the chance to play again with former AAU teammate and Edmond Santa Fe High School product Courtney Walker.
“It’s going to be a good fit, and she’s got an Oklahoma teammate,” Jeff said. “She’s still young, and this will be good for Taylor. It will be good for her game.”
Fulfilling the requirement to sit out her first year is not daunting to Cooper — she willingly accepts it as a positive.
“That will give me time to work on parts of my game,” she said.
“A&M is going to be a good fit for Taylor, and Taylor is going to be a good fit for A&M,” Jeff said.
Cooper, 19, joins A&M with a 3.6 grade point average and more than 40 completed credit hours of study. While at ORU, she was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll.
Also not daunting to Cooper is the fact that she is almost tripling what was just an hour-and-a-half trek from home.
“I think I’m ready for it,” she said of the switch. “I think I’m in a good place right now, where me and my family are both ready for it.”
Cooper praised Wells and her husband, Doug, for their proactive role in her life and athletic career, saying her high school coach is not just a coach.
“She’s not just a coach to me,” Cooper said. “She’s a friend that I can go to with anything. She and Doug both have been really good to me.”
“I think she’s made a great decision,” Jeff said of his daughter’s move to the Lone Star State. “I think putting that Texas A&M degree on her wall will open up lots of opportunities.
Page 3 of 3 - “I’m proud of her. I’m excited for her. We all are.”