Decision due soon for Te'a Cooper

Te'a Cooper spent Sunday afternoon in a gym and then made a quick trip to the mall to select an outfit for her mother to wear to dinner for Mother's Day. That is how much the Class of 2015 guard and top Tennessee recruit likes basketball. Go inside for more.

Te'a Cooper, a 5-8 guard from Powder Springs, Ga., participated in a basketball tourney this weekend in Marietta, Ga., with her father, Omar Cooper, coaching her A.O.T. (Athletes of Tomorrow) Lady Rebels team, as he has done "all my life," she said.

Her mother, Kindall Cooper, was in Suwanee, Ga., with her brothers at another basketball event. Te'a Cooper said the tourney was another chance to be evaluated, but the dynamic guard from McEachern High School – she was voted 2014 Georgia Miss Basketball by the Georgia Sports Writers Association – doesn't really need the exposure. She just loves to be on the court.

"I am just having fun playing," Cooper said.

She will be back in a gym Monday for workouts, agility and hoops. Cooper has plenty of company on the court, as the state of Georgia – and the Greater Atlanta area – is awash in top players.

"In Georgia, we go to work," Cooper said. "It's actually a small world in Georgia. We all play together. We all play against each other."

A former Georgia prep star, Andraya Carter, who played at Buford High School and is now at Tennessee, often joins the sessions during school breaks, as do other college players.

"I played with Draya a lot," Cooper said. "She's going to be up here Monday to train with us."

Cooper will be in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in two weeks for the U17 trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. She just missed making the U16 squad a year ago and looks forward to another tryout opportunity. The USA's U17 squad will compete in the FIBA World Championships in the Czech Republic later this summer.

"I am extremely motivated from the last time. It just wakes you up," said Cooper, who appreciates pulling on a USA jersey. "It's different. It's not like how you just put a jersey on for an All-Star team or something.

"It's just different. You go out there and do something you've never done before. It's special."

Cooper wasn't heavily recruited until the past year – it wasn't due to lack of talent; it was because she had committed to North Carolina as an eighth-grader. Cooper reopened her commitment last summer, and top schools immediately expressed interest, including Tennessee. Despite reversing her initial decision, Cooper understands why a recruit would commit early.

"I don't think I would say you shouldn't commit early, because if that's where you want to go, then there is no other reason to wait," she said. "If you've got the offer that you've been waiting for and that's what you wanted to do the whole time, I think you should just commit."

However, North Carolina underwent roster and staff changes, and Cooper decided to reevaluate her college choice.

"I decided that I should give everybody else a chance, and I did it," she said.

Cooper has a list of five finalists that includes North Carolina. The other four are Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Pitt. She has not yet made her decision and when she does, it will be taped and aired on an MTV episode about recruiting. The show, part of MTV's "True Life" reality series, will broadcast in late June or July.

"I am going to announce it on the air," she said. "We've been taping for a long time now."

However, a key piece of the show – where Cooper will attend college – still remains to be taped. That session will be set up in a few weeks.

"I am going to actually pick on there," she said. "I am still in the deciding process. I am going to actually decide when they ask me."

That means the decision will be known before it actually airs. Cooper will have her family and close friends present for the taping, and they will have to keep it under wraps until the show airs.

"Everybody is just going to have to be quiet," Cooper said with a laugh. "I am pretty sure they won't say anything."

Ironically, part of the roster and staff changes at North Carolina occurred after Diamond DeShields and three other recruits from the Class of 2013 all committed on the same day last May. However, the assistant coach primarily in charge of their recruitment, Trisha Stafford-Odom, returned to her home state of California to be the head coach at Concordia University. DeShields played one year for the Tar Heels, wowed the ACC and earned national freshman of the year honors. However, DeShields, who never quite got comfortable with the fit in Chapel Hill, has decided to transfer. Tennessee is among the schools now recruiting her.

DeShields, who is from Norcross, Ga., is close friends with Cooper, so speculation has placed them on the same campus, but Cooper said that hasn't been decided at all.

"I think we are going to make the decision that is best for us individually," Cooper said. "It's fine with me and I am pretty sure it's fine with her, but we have never said anything like that."

Additional speculation had Cooper attending the same school as a McEachern football player who was said to be her boyfriend and is also being recruited by Tennessee. Cooper also debunked that one, saying they were friends but not a couple.

Cooper's interest in Tennessee occurred long before DeShields announced last month that she would transfer. Cooper has made several trips to Knoxville on unofficial visits, including one as recently as April to chat with the coaching staff.

"Just to see the staff and the team and the campus," Cooper said.

Cooper attended a Lady Vols game this past season and was on campus last October when Class of 2014 Tennessee signee Alexa Middleton made her official visit. She wore a Tennessee jersey for that trip.

"I just thought it would be cool if I wore a jersey," said Cooper, who was accompanied on that fall trip by her parents and brothers.

"I like Tennessee and how they play and the coaching staff," Cooper said. "The fan support is crazy. The whole area is Big Orange women's basketball."

While evaluation reports say that Cooper can play off the ball, she wants to be a point guard in college. She is athletic, physical and a natural floor leader.

"I like to play point guard," Cooper said. "I like passing, and I like getting involved. I like controlling the offense."

Cooper hasn't let the recruiting process become stressful, and she is taking her time with the decision while doing plenty of research about the schools.

"It's been a lot of fun," Cooper said. "I just enjoy the moment."

Cooper's last visit to Knoxville included time with the coaching staff, an important factor in her decision.

"A coach that puts people in their position for their strong points," Cooper said. "Someone that is inspiring, that passion for the sport and just wants to win and is into the game with their players and wants to have fun."

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