A social gathering in suburban Atlanta Thursday night became a cause for celebration in Knoxville.
Te’a Cooper, one of the top women’s basketball prospects in the Class of 2015, convened friends and family at a SkyZone in Kennesaw, Ga. With trampolines as a backdrop and MTV filming for a future episode of its reality show “True Life,” the 5-foot-8 point guard pulled on a Tennessee shirt as her way of announcing that she was committing to the Lady Vols.
Her decision was conveyed via social media by several sources. Friend and workout partner Diamond DeShields tweeted a photo and said, “Lookin good in orange baby girl wow I’m so happy right now this is crazy.”
Cooper is ranked No. 5 in her class by the All-Star Girls Report. Bret McCormick, who evaluates talent for the report, has watched Cooper grow up on the court.
“I saw her in the sixth grade at Carson-Newman,” he said. “She was a great player then.
“I think she’s a phenomenal scorer, player and passer. She’s hungry. She works hard.”
Cooper, who is ranked 12th by ESPN HoopGurlz, has played three varsity seasons at McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Ga., and has started 60 career games. She averaged 19.6 points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals per game last season for the Indians, who won the 6A Georgia state championship for the team’s second title in three years.
Last month, Cooper was one of 12 players to make USA Basketball’s U-17 World Championship team. She will be playing for the first time on a U.S. team June 28 through July 6 in the Czech Republic.
Cooper initially committed to North Carolina as an eighth grader but reopened her recruitment last summer. Georgia, South Carolina, Pitt and Duke were the other college favorites listed in her USA Basketball profile.
“I just think she has a scorer’s mentality,” McCormick said. “She has a great crossover. She can take people off the dribble and get to the hoop. Her (outside) shot is solid, not great but it’s improved.
“I wouldn’t call her a shooter. I’d call her a scorer.”
The Lady Vols hope Cooper is a persuasive recruiter as well. DeShields announced in April that she was transferring from North Carolina after one season. She’s since visited Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina but has yet to choose a new school.
DeShields helped promote Cooper’s announcement, urging people to attend. But DeShields has resisted attempts to link her impending decision to Cooper’s. In advance of Thursday’s event, DeShields on Tuesday tweeted: “Te’a Cooper is committing on Thursday NOT ME. Just to clear that whole thing up.”
Along with Cooper, Jackson, a 5-10 guard from Blackman High in Murfreesboro, picked the Lady Vols last February.