Cooper is liking what he’s seeing
New Baldwin High School boys basketball coach Heath Cooper has been getting a steady diet of looks at the players he'll have next year and he likes what he sees.
"I'm really pleasantly surprised," said Cooper. "I knew it would be a good place for me. I know with the success there's been in other sports that the athletes were here.
"I'm really impressed with the talent level," he said. "It's a lot better than I expected. I am pleasantly surprised."
Cooper was hired June 14. He immediately got involved with the strength and conditioning program at BHS.
"I think he's great," said BHS football coach Mike Berg. "He has a really great work ethic. He comes down every day at 5 a.m. When he was hired, he turned full time.
"He's very full of enthusiasm and wants all sports to be successful," said Berg. "He's been encouraging kids who have never been in the weight room, including seniors, to get in there. I like him."
Cooper has met with most of the BHS coaches and has been learning about how they've come across success.
"I'm definitely getting to know coach Berg by being at weights every day," said Cooper. "My old coach always told me 'when you see good things, steal it. You're not going to reinvent the game.' So, I'm stealing from those guys and they're helping me out."
In addition to the weights, the new head coach has also been working with three players at a time for additional work outs and a way to get to know them better. He's got 15 players taking advantage of those times.
"It's matched up on their availability and we do it two days a week," he said. "We've had a great attitude. They've been there every time and have been on time. They are working their tails off and that's great.
"Basically, we're doing a lot of fundamentals," Cooper said of the work in those sessions. "Anywhere you go in high school basketball, the fundamentals aren't where they should be like they used to be."
He's also seeing that his Bulldogs will fit the style of play he wants and what's needed to get there.
"We definitely want to play a fast-paced game," he said. "We want to get in that mindset. We also need to get in shape to do that. Really, these players fit that style. Unfortunately, we're not very big, but they are really good athletes and get up and down the floor.
"I think our biggest guy is going to be 6-3 or 6-4," said Cooper. "That's all right. It's just going to take getting the mindset right to get up and down the floor.
There have been several players that have caught his eye, too.
"Jeremy Wright is lightning quick. Aaron Hannon is right there with him," he said. "Drew Berg is another one and Chris Irick and Ryan Jorgensen. These guys fit our style.
"About three-quarters of them are hitting the weights, too," said Cooper. "A lot of them are busy with jobs, playing baseball and basketball and other summer-time things. The numbers are going up almost weekly."
He's also caught the interest of several players who haven't played in recent years.
"I've had several guys come say 'I'm going to play this year.' I am picking up some that have been on the fence," he said. "I'm looking for the best players, whether they're freshmen or seniors. I think there's renewed interest."
Cooper will also be conducting his basketball camp next week, Monday through Friday. Juniors and seniors will got from 7:15 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Freshmen and sophomores will go from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the high school. Cost is $25, which includes a t-shirt and insurance.
"Basically, we'll be looking at the camp as practice," said Cooper. "We're going to do everything we're going to do during the season. Campers and parents will get a good look at our style."