Few players were as clutch as James Cooper in the long, storied history of The College Wooster’s tradition-rich men’s basketball program. After all, “Coop” scored nine of Wooster’s 13 overtime points during a 94-87 win against The College at Brockport as a junior, sending the Fighting Scots to the national semifinals in Salem, Va. A year earlier, Cooper authored one of the most exciting endings during the apex of the great rivalry with Wittenberg University, as he drained a 3-pointer from approximately 25 feet out for the final points in an 86-83 victory over his hometown school.
Cooper, the only three-time All-American for the winningest NCAA men’s basketball program of the 2000s, was just the second player in team history and third in North Coast Athletic Conference history to score 2,000 career points, and the offensive sparkplug of the first class to win four outright NCAC championships. Overall, the Scots posted a 105-17 record (.861).
“James was a phenomenal shooter,” said legendary head coach Steve Moore. “He had the ability to score from long range, but what made James so difficult to defend was his ability to score on the mid-range jump shot off the dribble. James had exceptional dribble moves which made it extremely difficult for defenders to contain him.”
While Cooper’s impact was felt immediately as a rookie, it took until his sophomore year for the standout to start to gain notoriety on the national stage. That season, Cooper became the first Wooster student-athlete to lead a league in scoring since at least 1960, and his 19.2 points per game were delivered in an efficient manner – 55.7 percent field-goal shooting, 47.0 of 3-pointers, and 81.7 percent on free throws. The NCAC coaches tabbed Cooper as the league’s player of the year, making him the second sophomore to earn the top honor. After earning first-team all-region recognition from both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and D3hoops.com, Cooper landed on both organizations’ respective All-American teams.
“James made a major impact in his first year, then made great improvement as a player due to his hard work and adjustment to the college game,” summed up Moore.
As a junior, Cooper earned a repeat spot on the All-NCAC first-team after ranking as the Scots’ top scorer at 18.0 points per night. D3hoops.com first-team all-region and second-team All-American honors followed, and the deep threat also collected a second-team all-region certificate from the NABC.
Cooper found another level and turned in one of the top seasons in program history as a senior. The guard earned a second NCAC Player-of-the-Year award, as his name stood alone at the top of the NCAC scoring leaderboard at 19.5 points, to go with a career-high in rebounds (2.4 per game), and 2.0-plus assists for the third year in a row. Cooper’s efficiency stood out as 53.5 percent of his field goals found the bottom of the net, and he connected on nearly 50 percent of his 3-pointers, and 80.5 percent at the free throw line. D3hoops.com continued to hold Cooper in high regard, and the popular website tabbed the senior at its Great Lakes Region Player of the Year, and later a first-team All-American. Cooper also was named a NABC second-team All-American.
When looking to play at the collegiate level, Moore’s personality and sincerity stood out to Cooper, and that ultimately led to the decision to come to Wooster.
“Coach Moore was persistent, he was honest, and I felt I could trust him,” summed up Cooper, who was the first person in his entire family to attend college. “Coach Moore built a great program, and I wanted to be a part of it. The College embraced me as a person and allowed me to thrive. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to play for Coach Moore and Wooster. I hope I left an everlasting effect as a person and a basketball player.”
Cooper’s post-Wooster journey started with a professional playing opportunity in Germany, and the standout is still heavily involved in the sport to this day. Currently, he’s working as a youth director at Inside Out, an outreach, service, and giving organization advocating for at-risk youth in Springfield, Ohio.
Personally, Cooper has three children: Jayda (10), Javon (2), and Jerin (10 months).