VEAZIE – Cooper Flagg did not know exactly what to expect when he took the trip to New Orleans to participate in the men’s junior national team basketball team in USA Basketball.
But he knew he wanted to have fun. And he knew he would turn some heads.
“It was a bit of both,” Flagg said. “Of course you want to have fun with all the guys you meet. But you will definitely give a good first impression to all the coaches who watch.”
By all accounts, he succeeded. After exploding on the state stage this season, Flagg continued to make a national impression this weekend, playing in the camp that serves as an introduction to USA Basketball, and holding out against some of the best high school players in the country .
“It went pretty well, I played pretty well,” Flagg said. “I did not shoot the best, but it was definitely good to get out there and meet a bunch of guys from my class and older guys who are really good.”
“I really liked what he did and how talented he was,” added Don Showalter, USA Basketball’s director of youth and sports development and one of the coaches at the minicamp. “He came and really showed us, I think, another level of what he can be as a basketball player.”
There were posts on Twitter from spectators at the camp who said Flagg impressed even among older players, and Nokomi’s freshman and future Montverde Academy player said it was rewarding to see.
“It’s definitely good to see people notice good things on the pitch,” he said. “It’s exciting to know that people saw and respected that I’m good.”
The mini-camp was designed for the players to have two training sessions on Friday, one on Saturday and then a scrimmage on Sunday, with matches often after the training. Throughout, Flagg said, the intensity was high.
“When you were on the pitch, there was definitely a wealth of urgency and energy. All good players want a lot of energy when they play, ”said Flagg. “It was also really competitive through the exercises. It wasn’t just by yourself. We did a lot of 1-on-1, 3-on-3, stuff like that. It was really competitive.”
Flagg said the exercises focused on both technique and concepts.
“It was a lot of skill work mostly through the exercises, but then they would also put in some defensive things that they like to teach, like screen coverage, something like that,” he said. “There were a bunch of good coaches there. … I just soaked up everything I could.”
He was not the only one who learned. Coaches found out why there has been so much talk about the 6-8 kid from Maine.
“He definitely seems to be around the ball a lot,” Showalter said. “He just has the ability to know where the ball is going and he’s really a great rebounder because of that. I think that’s one of his most important things. It’s clear he can shoot “The ball is good and he is extremely athletic. On his rebounds and offensive boards, and defensive blocking shots, he just has outstanding timing. He really is a top level player, in terms of skill.”
Showalter, however, said he was just as impressed with Flagg’s mentality as with his physical talents.
“I think he approaches the game in a great way,” he said. “He has a good mental framework around him, he knows and understands the game very, very well.”
By playing in the camp, Flagg is now in the pool of players who could be selected for future USA Basketball teams. Due to his date of birth in December 2006, Flagg will be out of the U16 team that will select his list for competition next season, but he is eligible for an invitation to the U17 team this year, although places on the rankings have a tendency to go to the elderly. players.
Either way, Showalter said he expects Flagg to find its way to a list soon enough.
“He definitely has some opportunities to be with us on some teams,” Showalter said. “From what he showed us, we wanted to see him in that (U17) mix, because he played against the older kids in our minicamp and did very well.”
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