By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Cori Cooper finally made a decision on her future.
After months of deliberation, the 6-foot-1 low-post senior from Copperas Cove signed her national letter of intent to play basketball at Division I Texas-San Antonio on Tuesday in front of family, coaches, teammates and friends.
"I'm excited," Cooper said with an infectious smile. "I really liked the environment down there, both on campus and with the basketball team."
Cooper does not expect to be red-shirted by the Roadrunners and could get immediate playing time for a women's program on the rise. Last year, UTSA put together one of the most successful seasons in school history with its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Roadrunners also set a school record for wins (23) and captured the Southland Conference Tournament title for the first time.
"I don't know exactly what my role will be (for the upcoming season)," Cooper said. "I just know I have to come in there, work hard and prove that I can play."
When Cooper first arrived at Cove 1 1/2 years ago as a junior from Arkansas, she had to do just that. During the '06-07 season, Cooper came off the bench and played behind Kim Baker. She was a far cry from a D-I basketball player.
But over the summer, Cooper joined an AAU team and put a lot of time in the weight room. She returned for her senior season with a confidence she hadn't possessed a year earlier.
"She improved so much," said assistant girls basketball coach Marsha Hammond, who was on the staff when Cooper arrived in October 2006. "I think the main thing was confidence she gained last summer. She was just more comfortable out there and it showed."
With her new game, Cooper put together quite the individual season. She led the Lady Dawgs in scoring, rebounds and block shots and averaged a double-double with 15.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
At season's end, Cooper was tabbed the District 16-4A Offensive MVP and selected by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches to the all-region team as one of the 20 best players in Central Texas.
She also helped the Lady Dawgs to 25 wins and an area-round playoff game.
"She really developed physically this season," Lady Dawgs head coach Richard Herbst said. "She became a threat to score and works really hard on both ends of the court."
Cooper said she wants to become a lawyer, so she'll study law at UTSA. It should fit her well considering she loves to talk, especially on the basketball court.
"Oh, I talk a lot out there," Cooper said with a bit of a smirk. "It's part of my game, plus I'm really good at it."
Added Herbst: "She has a way with people, both on the court and off."
Contact Evan Mohl at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.