Jan. 20, 2011
Cooper ready to lead Bearcats into second half
By David Boyce
A microscope is unnecessary to find the positives in Northwest Missouri State's 12-point loss at home to Missouri Southern on Monday.
Sophomore point guard DeShaun Cooper played the sort of game that leads you to believe good things are ahead for the Bearcats.
Cooper scored a career-high 29 points.
While the high-point total might cause a yellow light to go off in the minds of basketball purists, it doesn't take much research to see the type of dynamic game Cooper had.
He also dished out nine assists, clearly fulfilling the role of a point guard.
One player who benefitted from Cooper's multi-facet offensive game was junior Jake Petersen, who tossed in a career-high 22 points, including four three-pointers.
"His strength," said senior forward Elijah Allen, "is coming off ball screens and making reads. Being a fast guard it is pretty difficult to guard him off a screen."
At 5-foot-7, Cooper is cat quick with the same sort of elusiveness. You never quite know what he's going to do next.
The challenge for Cooper when he arrived at Northwest was to harness his quickness in the most effective way.
He put up decent numbers as a freshman, averaging 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds.
"I'm very under control," Cooper said. "It's a key to my game. Last year I was out of control and that's what caused a lot of turnovers. I feel I'm under control and giving people the ball when they need it."
Cooper simply needed to go through a learning curve. He came in last season with first-year coach Ben McCollum.
He was figuring out a new system with a new coach while adjusting to the increased speed and athleticism of the college game.
"He's matured mentally quite a bit," McCollum said. "He's really accepting coaching. He accepted it before. He was never disrespectful. But to accept it and self-evaluate is really a difficult thing to do. He's doing a much better job of that."
The Bearcats have struggled to get wins the last two seasons. They are 4-11 overall this year and 2-9 in the MIAA. They have been in most conference games and have come up short.
Despite some tough losses, Cooper remains a robust engine trying to get the Bearcats to click on all cylinders.
"He handles adversity well," McCollum said. "For any freshman to come in when there is a coaching change and having a rough season last year and a rough season this year, he's stayed with it, kept plugging away and kept a positive attitude.
"I think you will see it will pay dividends the rest of this year and into his junior and senior years."
Monday's game was one indication of it. Cooper heads into Saturday's home game against Emporia State leading the team in scoring at 15.2 points. He ranks near the top of the MIAA in assists with over five per game.
Cooper definitely hasn't given up on the season.
"We just need to keep working," he said. "If we come out and play every other team like we played Monday I'm pretty sure we will get the W."
The Bearcats aren't that far off. They have played solid defense must of the season. They rank in the upper half in the MIAA in most of the team defensive categories.
"I hope we are close," McCollum said. "We are working to correct some things on offense, which has plagued us all year. We are fourth in the league in defensive field goal percentage and that's without playing offense well at all. When you are not playing well on offense, the other team is always in transition and that makes it difficult to defend.
"Our defense has always been there. Our offense has been hurting. I think we figured something out Monday."
If Cooper continues to score 20-plus points and handing out nearly 10 assists, the wins are sure to follow.
"It seems like every night is going to be our night," Allen said. "We are coming in competing, listening to coaches. We are having good practices. We just have to carry it all the way out and get the win."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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