Kendall Cooper set to visit Knoxville

Basketball recruit Kendall Cooper talks with Inside Tennessee about her recruitment and official visits. Go inside for the latest on Lady Vols basketball.

Kendall Cooper, a post player from the West Coast, will make the trip east to visit Tennessee on the weekend of Sept. 21. Cooper, a 6-3 center from Carson, Calif., will be the first official visitor from the class of 2013 to visit coach Holly Warlick and her staff in Knoxville.

Cooper is visiting Duke this weekend with the trip to Tennessee coming the following weekend. She also intends to visit Texas A&M and UCLA and could add a fifth school. Luring Cooper away from the West Coast likely won't be easy, but Cooper has pledged to keep an open mind and evaluate all of her options.

"It is a long way from home and that's a big thing for me because I am family-oriented," said Cooper, who will take her visits to get a sense of family within the basketball programs.

"The most important factors to me are student-athlete support and how the coach cares about the players, not just as a player but as a person as well, and the academic program."

One appealing aspect of Tennessee is how it prepares players for the next level.

"The basketball program is a program that helps develop players, and my goal is to play in the WNBA and I think that Tennessee as a school can help me reach that goal," Cooper said.

WNBA general managers and coaches have noted that Tennessee players arrive to the league fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. Former Lady Vols don't have to be taught the game at the pro level – they learned it in Knoxville.

Tennessee had three players taken in the first round in 2012 – Shekinna Stricklen, Glory Johnson and Kelley Cain – and former Lady Vol Tamika Catchings is the reigning MVP of the league. Candace Parker was rookie of the year and MVP in her debut season in 2008 and went first in one of the deepest drafts in league history.

The class of 2013 is a deep one, and Tennessee is looking for posts, wings and guards. One perimeter player is on board in Jannah Tucker, a 6-0 forward from Maryland, and the Lady Vols could sign four to six players from this class. Cooper said her decision will be based on the best school for her, not how the class ultimately gets dispersed.

"I look out for what players are going where, but it's also my decision," Cooper said.

Cooper played on the USA U18 basketball team this summer for Miami Coach Katie Meier and won a gold medal in Puerto Rico in the FIBA Americas Championship. The win also came on her 17th birthday. It was Cooper's first stint on a USA team, and she played in all five contests with two starts.

"With a college coach I got to see what a college basketball program was like, the conditioning, the film," Cooper said. "It was a great way for me to get prepared."

Cooper with make the trip to Tennessee with her mother, Stephanie Cooper. It will be her first visit to the Volunteer State - though not her first connection; Cooper's grandmother lives in Knoxville - and the plans are to take in the Vols football game against Akron on Sept. 22. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., so the game will be under the lights at Neyland Stadium.

Warlick picked up two late signees last May in freshman Nia Moore, who was released from her letter of intent after Jolette Law was out at Illinois – and landed at Tennessee as an assistant coach – and in juco transfer Jasmine Phillips, who intended to go to North Carolina until a logjam of commitments caused her to rethink that decision.

So the high school class of 2013 will be the first recruited by Warlick as a whole and those that commit to Tennessee will do so knowing that Pat Summitt is not on the sidelines. While she is head coach emeritus and can attend practice and meet with recruits on visits, incoming Lady Vols will select Tennessee fully aware that Summitt is not the head coach.

"It doesn't matter to me," Cooper said. "I know that her assistant coaches are just like her so even though Coach Pat isn't there, it's like she's there because her spirit is in the rest of the coaches."

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