Chandler Cooper has swagger
The act of launching a basketball toward a rim is called a shot, so it's no wonder that the best at this skill display the characteristics of wild West gunslingers -- stance and preparation, quick triggers and oodles of swagger.
Though on the upswing, the latter quality still is a rare enough commodity in girls' basketball, which remains a viciously judgmental world.
And swagger comes in all kinds of forms. Take Chandler Cooper, for example (which we're sure a lot of programs gladly will go after the run she had during the Boo Williams Nike Invitational). The intimidation factor begins with warmups. That's when she practices taking slings from the logos, generally a good 5 feet behind the 3-point arc.
"It makes me a bigger threat," said Cooper, currently ranked No. 30 in the 2012 class but slated to rise.
A couple years ago, Cooper was four inches shorter and the "great, little point guard" you happened to spy while scouting her Drake Reed club teammate Bashaara Graves, the USA Basketball invitee ranked seventh in the 2012 class. Now 5-foot-10, Cooper has the leverage and strength that provide the sound foundation on which a great shooter is built. As such, she has a smooth, easy (unstrained) release -- even from the logos.
Cooper also has the ingrained habits of a shooter. She is a case study of catching the ball into her shooting motion. She chops into the reception, plants on a lead foot with balance and fires. Even on bad catches, she has an uncanny ability to recover quickly and find her balance on long-range jumpers. Cooper also reads her inside teammates' posts and consistently positions herself in their sightlines.
"Repetition" is what Cooper says she uses to maintain her shooting chops. "The same old boring stuff," she adds. Cooper tries to take 200 3s per day -- splitting those launches into sets of 25 at five spots around the court. Boring, maybe, but effective.
All of Cooper's fakes are of the non-exaggerated, "real-life" variety -- a look, a show. If the defender bites, Cooper will create space for her jumper or use her old point-guard handling skills to attack the basket.
Not just a one-trick pony, Cooper shows good judgment in her passing, stays active on defense with quick, searching hands, quick feet and her length, and sets very solid traps in extended pressure.
Cooper put her recruitment on hold during the high-school season, focusing on efforts at Clarksville (Tenn.), which finished 32-4 and reached the elite eight in the Tennessee state tournament. Her school list, recalibrated shortly after the Boo Williams tournament, includes Baylor, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Purdue and UNC Wilmington.
Then again, Cooper is a shooter in a shooter's market, and her phone is just beginning to blow up.
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Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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