Cooper Sr. highly impressed with Wildcats

Eric Cooper Sr. and his son, a 2014 Arizona commit, visited Arizona for the Red and Blue Game. Read on for his thoughts on the game, current state of the program, seeing players from the past, and much more.

Arizona had many visitors and recruits in town this weekend for the Red and Blue scrimmage. Only one of those was a 2014 commit, as Eric Cooper, Jr. and his father were in attendance.

Eric Cooper, Sr., played at Arizona for Lute Olson in 1985, but transferred to Texas-San Antonio after his freshman season. He has gone on record previously stating that it was a decision he has come to regret later in life.

Hoping to make the college experience better for his son, the Coopers decided to come to Tucson and see the atmosphere at McKale Center.

The father-son duo arrived on campus Sunday morning, missing the football game the night before, but were still able to join the early festivities.

"We didn't do much because we just came in on Sunday, but we went to an academic conference that morning where the kids got to see what the schooling was going to be like," Cooper Sr. said. "They got to see the program and the tutoring and how they keep the kids on course."

The elder Cooper said that his son made the decision to attend Arizona on his own, but that the two talked about what was important during the search.

"The atmosphere was incredible," Cooper Sr. said. "The last couple years it has been anticipated when these kids get to campus and grow.

"We committed a long time ago and one of the main reasons was the atmosphere. On the West Coast, you can't beat the atmosphere. Once you realize that you want to play in the western hemisphere, you have the atmosphere here at Arizona, at Washington and a few other places. This one is the best in the West as far as my opinion goes."

Sean Miller has made it no secret that he wants the Red and Blue Weekend to be a premiere event in Tucson every year. With a sold out arena, the 1988 basketball team was honored and spoke about the impact of having a large crowd for just a scrimmage. After the game, Cooper restated the importance of the sellout.

"I enjoyed the game and I played in it myself," he said. "You have guys like Steve Kerr and Sean Elliot talking about playing in it and I was playing in it the year before they did.

"I won the dunk contest and they had the wheelchair game, but it wasn't like this. We had maybe 6,000 people there watching us. It wasn't 14,500. It was just incredible today."

Of course, Eric Cooper Jr. won't be playing for his father's coach, Lute Olson, but that doesn't mean that there is a drop off in the current status in the staff.

"There really isn't a big change," Cooper Sr. said. "Sean Miller and Lute Olson are similar with the understanding of how to make the machine work. This program is a machine. Everyone has pieces and parts, but only certain people like John Calipari and Sean Miller know how to make the machine work and make it work efficiently. Lute Olson knew how to make it work."

Previously, Cooper coached at Laverne Lutheran High School, where he helped current Wildcat Grant Jerrett develop into the player that he is today. He got to see Jerrett play in the scrimmage and is amazed at how he has developed since arriving on campus a few months ago.

"Grant has gained weight and that is one of the main reasons that he chose Arizona," Cooper said. "You look at Angelo Chol, Solomon Hill, and Derrick Williams. There are guys that came through the program and Grant did not have that physical muscle mass.

"The strength and conditioning guy is a genius my opinion. He's in the right place at the right time and he gets it done. Looking at Derrick Williams, when he got there compared to what he was when he left, there's a major difference. Grant is the same way. In two years, he's going to look huge."

During the trip, Cooper also had time to mingle with some of the other visitors, including parents of other recruits that were on campus.

"I talked to a few parents and I know some of the ones from Los Angeles," he said. "If asked, I am going to be honest, but every kid is going to need something different.

"There are some kids that are on a certain level, where it doesn't matter where he goes, he is going to compete. Take an Aaron Gordon for example. He's on another level where he's ready to compete for a starting job. So he just has to find a place that he likes. If they ask me about Arizona I am only saying positive things, because it is a great place."

Throughout the day, the recruits stayed close together and talked with each other. It wasn't a big surprise to Cooper Sr. that his son and the other visitors got along so well.

"These are the same kids that Eric has played with all of his life," Cooper said. "They may be different age groups, but he has played with older kids all his life. By him playing with Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson, they've known each other since they were nine years old.

"Eric sat with Aaron Gordon on one side and Justise Winslow on the other side. It's not really like it's a new thing, though. Stanley and Eric both played on Belmont Shore together and I've coached them myself.

"Parker Jackson-Cartwright was there and he grew up playing against us weekly, so they all know each other and it shows when they are together."

In regards to recruiting, the former Wildcat believes that one of the strongest pitches that Arizona has is the amount of players that are now in the NBA.

"When you move to the level that Arizona has moved to as far as recruiting, a lot of the kids that are coming, see themselves as Derrick Williams," Cooper Sr. said. "With the alumni that Arizona has accumulated over the years, it is only helping the program get those type of players.

"Having them come back and really be the voice of the program sells everything. These guys are going to help them get to where they need to go. They are NBA analysts and they are commenting on these guys. It's really influential."

After watching the game, Cooper, Sr. also weighed in on how well he thinks the team will do this season and why.

"One thing Sean Elliott said today was that only great teams learn how to play together, but championship teams can share the ball," he said. "Sean Miller has a lot of talent on this team and he has found a way to get them to share the ball.

"This team has a lot of weapons and obviously you can't play everyone at once, but they are going to have to go ten players deep. I didn't see anyone out there that was a weak link. I have seen some in the past, but I didn't see any today. They can go anywhere on the court and they can all perform."

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