It’s a simple question, really.
Anyone who has played so much as church-league basketball has heard it and answered without much difficulty. Yet at the beginning of the season when I asked Fairmont State’s Brendan Cooper what position he plays, even he wasn’t sure how to answer.
The official roster lists Cooper ambiguously as guard/forward. At 6-foot-7 he has the size and toughness to battle inside with the big men. The next possession he’ll be taking the ball up the court, crossing up defenders with handles that make some point guards jealous.
After thinking for a while, Cooper settled on an answer: “Playmaker.”
That conversation was several months ago when, by all estimations, Cooper was going to be the face of the Falcons. Coach Jerrod Calhoun said himself at the season’s outset that the offense would “go through Cooper.”
But then came a hand injury.
It forced Cooper to miss considerable playing time in his final season at Fairmont State. Forget “playmaker,” he was essentially relegated to cheerleader.
A young starting lineup featuring four freshmen and one sophomore found its rhythm in Cooper’s absence. Now that Cooper is finally healthy, Calhoun has opted to stick with the same starters, which has forced his senior leader to accept yet another role: bench player.
Saturday Cooper not only accepted his place on the team; he thrived in it. The only healthy senior for Fairmont State scored 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds in a 93-81 upset win over No. 3 West Liberty.
“When he came back he had to understand his role for the team,” said redshirt freshman Thomas Wimbush, who has taken over as the main scoring threat in Cooper’s absence, putting up 24 points and grabbing 13 boards against the Hilltoppers. “He has to come off the bench and produce good minutes for us. He played really well for us tonight. I was really proud of him as a senior to go out like that.”
Cooper didn’t seem to mind that he wasn’t announced with the rest of the starters at the beginning of the game. Nor did he seem bothered that all but one of those starters played more minutes than his 30.
“As long as we're getting wins like that, I don't care if I don't even play,” he said.
The comment is especially true against West Liberty. Neither Calhoun nor Cooper had beaten the Hilltoppers before Saturday. Both would have probably agreed to sit on the bench — or even the bleachers in peanut heaven— if that’s what it took to get over the hump.
In the days leading up to the game, last year’s leading scorer Isaac Thornton texted and called Calhoun constantly. After losing all nine of his games against the Hilltoppers, Thornton didn’t want to see another senior go winless against them.
“He was texting me and calling me in the middle of the night: ‘Coach we’ve got to get them. I want Coop to get that win,’” Calhoun remembers.
Afterward I asked Cooper where the win ranks out of all of the games he’s played at Fairmont State. He responded, “Off the top of my head it’s got to be number one.”
In addition to his offensive versatility, Cooper added key minutes defensively. He blocked three shots (and got a piece of at least two more that were called goaltending, much to the dismay of the 1,426 fans packed inside of Joe Retton Arena). On one of the early blocks, Cooper sliced his finger on the rim.
“He had blood everywhere. It was an all-out war out there,” Calhoun said. “I thought both teams competed hard, and at one time he came to the sideline and he had blood gushing everywhere.”
The laceration was bandaged. But when more physical play opened the cut back up and blood dripped on his uniform, an NCAA rule forced him to change the bandage, his shorts and his jersey. He went from his typical No. 11 to No. 21.
But in a season of unexpected twists and turns, clothing was probably the smallest change that Cooper has had to deal with.
“When adversity strikes you've got to get together as a team and somebody has got to be the leader,” he said. “I think we're doing a good job of coming together and dealing with adversity.”
After beating the No. 3-ranked team in the country, I’d have to agree.
Email Mike DeFabo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeDeFaboTWV.
It’s a simple question, really.
- Fairmont State Sports
Falcons set for spring game
Football is back … well, kind of.
Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.
Mascaro signs with FSU
Gabi Mascaro is staying in Fairmont.
After considering several out-of-state colleges, the Fairmont Senior soccer standout signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday to continue her career at Fairmont State University, an upstart program which will play its first games in 2015.
Calhoun, FSU land two signees
Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun is adding the finishing touches to this year’s signing class.
FSU golfer wins MEC Player of the Year
Fairmont State’s Jess Ferrell shot a two-day score of 136 (-6) to win the MEC Southern and take home Mountain East Player of the Year honors.
FSU softball splits with Notre Dame
Fairmont State rallied in game two to earn the split in its MEC doubleheader against Notre Dame College on Saturday afternoon at Duvall-Rosier Field.
After five scoreless innings in game two, NDC took a 2-0 lead after a home run by Kelsey Coleman. In the bottom half of the inning, Ericka Aversa hit a sacrifice fly to score Joni Tyree from third.
Lady Falcons have high expectations for next season
Despite having to replace a trio of talented starters, including All-America point guard Kaitlin Snyder, from a team that finished 23-10, won the final West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship and made an appearance in the NCAA Division II National Tournament, Fairmont State University’s 2013-14 Lady Falcons came close to heading back to the so-called “Big Dance” this year.
Future bright for FSU after challenging season
If anything, the 2013-14 season served as an incredible learning tool for Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team.
FSU men, women miss NCAA Tournament
For a season that had its ups and downs for Fairmont State, both the men’s and women’s teams just missed the cut for the NCAA Tournament.
FSU’s rally falls short against ’Toppers
Twenty minutes into Saturday night’s Mountain East Conference semifinal-round showdown between top-seeded and No. 3 ranked West Liberty and fourth-seeded Fairmont State here at the Charleston Civic Center the Falcons looked down and out.
Cooper leads FSU past Bobcats, 70-62
Brendan Cooper played liked a first-team all-league selection even though he strangely wasn't, and Chase Morgan did what he does best in the game's final 1:18 – hit shots.
The result was a 70-62 Fairmont State victory over fifth-seeded West Virginia Wesleyan Friday evening in the quarterfinals of the Mountain East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
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- Falcons set for spring game