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MVP headed to CRC

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Houston Cooper signed a letter of intent last week to play basketball for Crowley's Ridge College next fall. Cooper helped lead the Mammoth Spring Bears to the Class 1A state championship and was named tournament MVP. From left are: Mark Cooper, Paula Cooper, Houston Cooper and CRC Head Coach Chris Perkins. [Order this photo]
Houston Cooper is the prototypical point guard.

You know the kind -- the kind that always seems to find his teammates at the exact perfect moment that they need the basketball. The kind that can control things on offense without scoring a point, while also influencing things on the defensive end of the floor by taking his opponent's best player out of the game.

A facilitator.

A real throw-back to the way basketball used to be played.

That's exactly the kind of player that the Crowley's Ridge College Pioneers are in need of, and that's exactly the kind of player they're getting.

Cooper inked to play hoops for CRC next fall during a ceremony held May 1 at the Mammoth Spring High School gymnasium.

"He is a true point guard. He handles the ball well and sees the floor well," said CRC Head Coach Chris Perkins. "And that should at least give him a heads-up as he starts into college."

Cooper, who was named the Class 1A State Tournament MVP after helping the Bears win the state championship last month, has seemingly been playing basketball for at Mammoth Spring High School for decades.

At least that what opponents of the Bears have been thinking for the past few years.

And while that may be a bit of a stretch, the truth is, Cooper has been a fixture at guard for the Bears ever since Head Coach Jeremy Cude's arrival at the school.

"It's indescribable ( what he's meant for the program). He began starting as a seventh-grader and has not missed a game ever since," said Cude. "Great stability."

In junior high, Cooper was part of a squad that finished with a perfect 29-0 record.

Standing just a shade under 6-0, Cooper has all the qualities a coach could ask for out of his floor general. "Leadership, toughness, defense, decision-making and the ability to control tempo," Cude said.

Cooper finished up his career for the Bears with 651 assists and 1,051 points.

And none of those points were any bigger than the very last two he scored in a Mammoth Spring uniform, when he hit a layup with two seconds remaining that virtually sealed the Bears' 42-39 win over Sacred Heart in the Class 1A state championship game in Hot Springs.

"I think he'll fit in well at Crowley's Ridge College," said Cude. "They're in need of a true point guard and he'll bring that, along with a great deal of toughness and defense."

In addition to being named the Class 1A State Tournament MVP, Cooper, who averaged 8.9 points per game and 4.6 assists an outing as a senior, also played his way to All-Regional Tournament and All-Conference honors this past winter.

"We think he'll come in and limit turnovers, and that's an area that we struggled with last year. We were a really young basketball team last year," Perkins said. "The guy that was our starting point guard, we kind of had to make him into a point guard. He just wasn't real comfortable in that spot. And Houston should be able to come in and give us that comfort level at the point guard spot that we really need next year."

Handling the basketball and directing a team up and down the floor is second nature for Cooper.

That much shouldn't change when he hits the CRC campus in Paragould next fall.

However, there will be a few noticeable differences between things at the high school and college level that he will have to contend with.

"They're be some transition. There always is between high school and college, just because the game is so physical," said Perkins. "Probably an area he'll have to get better at is the physical strength. But he's so basketball smart, I think that will help keep him moving up the ladder. And once he gets physically stronger, then he'll be able to take off from there. We're still young, with only one upper classman -- a junior -- next year. So we're pretty much going to be the same basketball team for the next two years. But we're excited about our potential. It's a building process and the better the players we get in, the more we'll continue to grow and Houston's going to be part of that process."

While it remains to be seen what kind of ultimate success Cooper finds himself a part of in college, all indications are that the ultimate success the Mammoth Bears had this past winter will not be forgotten around these parts for a long, long time.

"I'm very proud of what these guys accomplished, not just this year, but over the past six years," said Cude. "However, I look even more forward to seeing what kind of champions they become in life over the next 10 to 20 years. I also look forward to the returning players establishing themselves and continuing the rich tradition and success of Bears' basketball."

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