Cooper Sr. happy with team's progress

Eric Cooper Sr coaches La Verne Lutheran, led by Eric Cooper Jr. and Grant Jerrett. Read on to see what he has to say about their progress, how the season has gone, and more.

Eric Cooper, Sr.'s La Verne Lutheran team is off to a 12-4 start to its season due in large part to the play of a pair of Arizona commitments, 2012 center Grant Jerrett and 2013 combo-guard Eric Cooper Jr. The younger Cooper is off to a solid start to his junior season much to the delight of his father, who has seen his son come a long way since the summer AAU circuit.

"Eric is finally getting back into the swing of playing games at full speed and getting comfortable," Cooper Sr. said. "This is the first year he can just play and figure out all of the details of playing. I expect him to just get better and better.

"He's patient and he takes all of his open looks, he's rebounding, but overall he's just more patient. In the summer when it was a big game he would start going too fast and not reading the game. When you're playing basketball you have to read the situation and make the right choice and he's beginning to make all of the right choices.

"That's why he was so successful when he was younger is because he always made the right decision. The last few games he's been making the right decision and looking really, really good."

Back at full strength health wise from a devastating knee injury, Cooper, Sr. expects his son's athletic ability to catch up with his skill level on the floor sooner than later.

"I think he's fine physically, he looks good," Cooper, Sr. said. "I don't see an area where he's hurt. I think he develop more athletically, but that'll come in the future as well. He's missed out on so much that that part of it has to come eventually. In the eighth grade he was reverse dunking, but after being out for two years he hasn't developed that part of his body.

"Now that he's got the game down, he has to work on his body and that's going to happen naturally as he becomes an adult and starts growing. With Eric, it's all about consistency. If he can play this way the rest of the year, I'll be blown away if he can just do that, being consistently good. He has to actually get buckets, get assists, and get rebounds with a good shooting percentage, every night."

The star for the Trojans this year is five-star center Grant Jerrett, the nation's 23rd best player and possibly the best player in the entire state of California this season. After an up and down junior season, Cooper Sr. has seen Jerrett emerge as a dominant force game in and game out.

"For Grant it's the same thing, consistency," Cooper Sr. said. "When you watch a NBA game, you know who your guys are and every night they give you the same stats pretty much. It looks a little different every night, but the stars are going to be stars. Grant is now a star and every night he gives you the same stats no matter who he's playing.

"He hasn't done that in the past, he didn't do that last year. He didn't do that all the time, but this year he's consistent. I just want him to keep being consistent and keep being dominant and dominate his matchup. He's aggressive, he's dunking everything, he's being aggressive, he's knocking down shots, he's hitting threes, he's doing everything."

One wrinkle Jerrett has added to his game this season is his three-point shot, an ability that his coach thinks Arizona head coach Sean Miller will greatly appreciate when his prized big man arrives on campus next summer.

"I just told him he couldn't shoot threes his first two years," Cooper, Sr. said. "Last year he stepped out a little bit, this year he can take any shot he wants. It doesn't matter with Grant, he can hit all shots, he's very consistent. He'll have that privilege at Arizona, there's no question in my mind that he can do that. Coach (Miller) will want him doing that because he's so consistent."

With the glaring absence of any sort of big man play for Arizona this season, Jerrett will likely have to step in as a true freshman and contribute. That being said, Cooper Sr. knows his star player and his son's best friend is more than capable of playing a role for the 2012-13 Wildcats right away.

"I think he's really going to be good because first of all, he's not going to be the main guy," Cooper, Sr. said. "Solomon Hill is going to be the main guy next year, then you're going to add some role players and Grant is going to be the ultimate role player for them. If you double team Solomon Hill, Grant will get buckets all day long.

"He's going to be the ultimate side kick for the returning guys, and he's okay with that. He doesn't need to steal the show or anything, he doesn't mind being that third guy. Whenever he touches the ball, something magical will happen."

Make no mistake, in Cooper Sr.'s mind, just because Jerrett may not come in and be the team's primary option doesn't mean he doesn't think he's capable of carving out a major role in his first season of college basketball.

"Just like in high school he wasn't our primary guy until last year a little bit and then this year," Cooper Sr. said. "It's timing for everything and I don't think he'll force anything. When Derrick Williams showed up at Arizona, who would've thought that he'd be what he was? Nobody.

"The thing about Grant is that he's ready for that, it's just does the team need that to win a championship? Whatever the team needs, Grant's going to give it to you. If they need him to be the guy, he'll be the guy. If they need him to be a role player, he'll be a role player. He's capable of doing it all. He doesn't need to do any of it, but the only thing he wants to do is win a championship."

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