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
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.
West Liberty, Glenville, Charleston advance to MEC semi-final
Charleston out-lasted Wheeling Jesuit, 91-85, in overtime in the first quarterfinal of the Mountain East Conference Tournament presented by GoMart on Friday afternoon.
Andre Harris, who finished with a game-high 22 points, picked up a steal and then converted a traditional three-point play to put Wheeling Jesuit up 76-73 with :21 seconds left.
Cold-shooting Lady Falcons fall to State
In its biggest game of the season to date Fairmont State suffered its worst performance.
Fifth-seeded FSU shot a season-low 29.5 percent from the field (18-of-61), including a dismal 8-of-33 showing (24.2 percent) in the second half and as a result fell, 71-59, to fourth-seeded West Virginia State in the quarterfinals of the first Mountain East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament here Thursday night at the Charleston Civic Center.
Falcons hope for tournament run
Since day one, making another post-season run has been at the top of Fairmont State coach Jerrod Calhoun’s mind.
Last season the Falcons went three-for-four in the WVIAC Tournament, falling to West Liberty in the tournament’s final game. The strong run, though, propelled the Falcons into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed.
FSU women roll in MEC Tourney opener
Fifth-seeded Fairmont State didn't waste any time Tuesday night punching its ticket for Charleston and earning a berth in the Mountain East Conference Women's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals Thursday at the Charleston Civic Center.
Wimbush named MEC Freshman of the Year
Thomas Wimbush has been named Mountain East Conference Freshman of the Year, as announced by the league office this afternoon. Wimbush also joined teammates Stevie Browning and Brendan Cooper on the MEC second team.
FSU women to open MEC Tournament
When Fairmont State’s women’s basketball team toppled Shepherd, 103-80, Saturday, coach Steve McDonald didn’t know who his team would face.
Falcons edge Shepherd, earn first-round bye: PHOTOS
The scenario Saturday afternoon on Senior Day for Fairmont State's men's basketball team in its regular-season finale against visiting Shepherd University was pretty simple.
Win and receive an automatic first-round bye in the upcoming Mountain East Conference Basketball Tournament. Lose and host a first-round game Tuesday night at the Joe Retton Arena.
Innocent, Garrett star as Lady Falcons roll: PHOTOS
Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at the Joe Retton Arena Fairmont State senior Brianna Innocent was anything but that against visiting Shepherd University.
The 6-foot-1 backup center came off the bench and torched the Lady Rams in the regular-season finale for 27 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to help lead FSU to a 103-80 victory.
COLUMN: Senior season comes full circle for FSU’s Innocent
In like a lion, out like a lamb. That old adage could be used to describe Bri Innocent’s senior season with Fairmont State.
Not to say that she finished her season quietly. Quite the opposite actually.
In her first game in a Falcon uniform, she played like a lion, pouring in 20 points and ripping down 10 rebounds.
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