The first time she played the sport was in New Jersey and against her sister Mia. Te’a wore a skirt at the time.
“I hated basketball,” Cooper said. “I hated basketball up until the fourth or fifth grade. I thought it was so stupid, and I didn’t understand why (people) were doing all that extra work just to put the ball in the goal. Then, one day I was just so tired of watching my sister play. She wanted me to play so bad that she wouldn’t leave me alone. So, I decided to play.
“And, I’m the type of person that if I’m doing something, I can’t be terrible at it. I want to be the best at it. So, I trained every day for the whole summer and the whole year and then I, started liking it, and here I am now.”
For Cooper, now has an important distinction after the 5-foot-8 McEachern guard was named the state’s Miss Basketball by the Georgia Sports Writers’ Association.
“That’s crazy,” Cooper said of receiving the honor. “I’m very excited. I didn’t even know I got that award. It’s beyond exciting to be able to be Miss Basketball.”
Cooper’s commitment to training and learning basketball has led her to national notoriety in the sport. She’s considered the No. 4 overall player in the Class of 2015 according to ESPN’s girls’ basketball rankings, and she’s the No. 2 prospect at the point guard position.
Cooper, who can also play shooting guard, averaged 19.6 points per game last season for McEachern, leading the Lady Indians to the Class AAAAAA state championship. It’s Cooper’s second state title at McEachern and the second for the program in three years.
Cooper and her coach, Phyllis Arthur, share a great bond that has helped lead to the team’s success.
“Coach Arthur is a wonderful person on and off the court,” Cooper said. “It’s really a blessing to be coached by her. She not only gets you better as a player and teaches you how to be a leader, but off the court she teaches you how to be a young lady and teaches you what’s right and how to carry yourself. She’s an all-round good person.
“She’s taught me how to make other people better and to not only keep them motivated, but to keep myself motivated. How off the court is just as important on the court when you’re trying to set an example. She’s shown me how to stay positive all of the time.”
Being named Miss Basketball is just one of several accolades Cooper has received, not only this season, but in her basketball career. Earning accolades hasn’t been her focus. Cooper has always been committed on getting better and helping her teammates succeed.
“It’s amazing (to be Miss Basketball) because I don’t really know how many awards I get or what people think of me,” Cooper said. “I’m really isolated from the Internet and all that other stuff. I don’t think that it’s necessary for me to see that.
“That’s for other people, so I just stay away from it, and focus on getting better and staying in the gym. When I’m in the gym, I’m just working to be that Miss Basketball, and to get this award is just amazing.”
With all of the awards and her most recent state championship title, Cooper is living up to her talents when, as an eighth grader, she committed to play basketball at North Carolina.
Cooper has since re-opened her recruiting search for several reasons, the most important of which was to get college coaches to see her teammates play and to help them get recruited.
Cooper admits she’s come a long way from being that person who hated basketball. She’s grown to love it and loves how it’s changed her life.
“Basketball has given me opportunities to travel the world and go to different states,” she said. “It started to be fun. At first I was doing it just because, but then I started to get awards and compliments and people started watching me play. I love to work out, so that wasn’t a problem, and then I just fell in love with basketball.”