When Samantha Cooper makes up her mind to do something, she doesn’t allow anything to stand in her way and she leaves nothing to chance.
Cooper, a guard/forward for the Lockerby senior girls’ basketball team and Grade 12 honour roll student, shows this approach to sports and every day life. She got a hard lesson when she was in Grade 8 about what it takes to keep playing the game at higher levels — a lesson she still carries with her today. It acts as a driving force in her life.
In Grade 8, Cooper was cut from a provincial team try-out. It rocked her world. But Cooper used it as motivation to become one of the most sought-after basketball prospects in North America.
“When I got cut, I was hurt,” the 17-year-old said. “I realized how much I loved the game and I wanted to be better.
“In Grade 7 and 8, I wasn’t serious about basketball. Getting cut was a wake-up call for me. I knew I had to change what I was doing. I needed to be more committed. It happened at the right time for me. It changed everything for me.”
That lesson has led to bigger and better things. She has helped the Vikings senior girls team each of the three years she has been in high school. Cooper made the cut and was on the Canadian U-18 junior national team this year, helping Canada take fourth place in a world championship qualifier event.
Cooper also made the national U-18 team for the FIBA 3-on-3 World Championship. She is a Viking scholar and maintains a plus-90 average.
Next year, she is taking her talents to Fairfield University, a NCAA Division I school.
It hasn’t been luck. Cooper has gone out and made her own fate in the game.
“Samantha is engaging and intelligent,” Lockerby basketball coach Mike Sheridan said. “She is focused on where she wants to go. No doubt, she is one of the best players in Ontario and one of the top students at Lockerby.
“She goes to school, does basketball, eats and sleeps. She does things on her own to make herself better. No one is pushing her. This is what she wants.”
Cooper is the premier basketball player in the Greater Sudbury high school scene and for good reason. She is nearly unstoppable thanks to her package of skill, will, heart and attitude. And she has size to boot.
Cooper can play any kind of game and causes fits amongst the players who are matched up to stop her. Cooper is blessed with a generous 6-2 frame, and uses her height to grab rebounds and battle hard in the paint to stuff home points.
She uses her athleticism to overpower foes all over the court and in all facets of the game. Even when the opposing team attempts to snuff her out by unleashing three defenders on her at once, it matters little. Cooper either powers through them all and imposes her will as she charges towards the net or stops on a dime and dishes off a pin-point perfect pass to an open teammate.
“Samantha is a good leader and she is someone we can count on no matter what,” long time teammate Julia Sostarich said. “She encourages us and is fun to be around. She can be serious, but when you need a friend, she is always there for you.”
There is only one Cooper. On any given night, one is more than any opponent can handle.
“Samantha is our best three-point shooter and she has an all-around game,” Sheridan said. “She can do it all.
“She has an edge, too. She has always had it. She can get a little nasty. She is tough and intense and always ready to compete.”
Cooper isn’t going to sell herself short. She wants no regrets. It explains the punishing routine she stays loyal to. She practices every day, including weekends. There are many nights she goes and shoots more hoops and trains more at Laurentian University after a Lockerby practice. She also works with a personal trainer two times a week.
It is go, go, go for Cooper and she admits it is intense, but she likes it that way.
“Yes, I’m a little intense at times,” she said with a smile. “I’m really hard on myself. I love to win and don’t want to lose. I want to be my best. It takes work.
“I am lucky to have realized I have found something I am passionate about and what I do with it will take me as far as I want to go.”