Hayti standout Kobe Cooper signs to play basketball at North Central Missouri College
Hayti standout and all-state honoree Kobe Cooper recently signed a national letter of intent with North Central Missouri College in Trenton. With family, friends, teammates, coaches, and administration on hand, Cooper put the ink to paper in a ceremony in the gym lobby at 1 p.m. on May 7.
Also in attendance was North Central head basketball coach Jeremy Esry, who expressed excitement to have Cooper coming to Trenton. Esry says he first heard of Kobe through the family of former Hayti standout Brandon Burden, who played for North Central.
“We first heard of Kobe through the Burden family and then Coach Bidewell and a few others,” he said. “He had a really, really good year, so we became interested.”
Esry says with Cooper’s athletic build and natural athleticism, he believes Cooper has the ability to make an immediate impact.
“He has a great frame on him already, and he’s really athletic. I think he’ll fit well into what we do offensively,” he said. “Kobe really hustles and plays really good defense. So that tempo, that pace is what we’re looking for. And plus his mindset is great, which seems to carry over to the other guys. I believe Kobe is going to be a major part of our program.”
Hayti coach Aaron Bidewell agrees and believes Cooper’s exceptional senior year is just one of the many indicators of Cooper’s inevitable success. Bidewell is also convinced that Cooper is an excellent fit for NCMC’s program.
“The coach let him know that he was very interested in him, and he went up there and had a good showing,” he said. “It was just about an hour later that the coach called me and asked about Kobe’s character. Coach Esry is already really good friends with the coach at New Madrid County Central, and he also had a lot of good things to say about Kobe. So it really worked out really well.”
As for Cooper’s demeanor as a player, Bidewell viewed his contributions to the team as invaluable and feels that his leadership qualities will easily carry over to the collegiate level.
“Kobe’s never been a guy that’s going to be really vocal in practice and tell people that they should do this or do that. He’s more of a leader by example kid,” he said. “I don’t remember him having a bad practice all year. He worked hard, and he was consistent.
“Kobe is extremely athletic, and I think he’ll fit in right away defensively,” Bidewell continued. “He’s a good shooter, and he had a better year shooting. But at the collegiate level, he does need to have a more consistent 3-point shot. He needs to get up there as soon as possible and put up as many shots as he can and get adjusted to the collegiate courts, which are a little longer. But Kobe will fit in anywhere he goes. He’ll adapt, work hard and do what he can to help the team.”
Sometimes the loss of a graduating senior is not only a blow to the team, but to the school and community. Bidewell believes Kobe Cooper is that caliber of a person.
“It really was wonderful to coach such a great kid,” he said. “He has a great personality. He stays light but also knows when it’s time to work. I think the thing I’ll miss the most is outside of basketball, just spending time driving to football games and other things. Obviously, we’re going to miss him as a player; he’s a super talent and had a fantastic year. I think the thing about Kobe that is so special is the humble way he went about his work as a player, and I think that has a lot to do with why he’ll be playing at the next level. He’s just a super kid and has a wonderful personality. So whatever he does in life, somebody out there is going to get an outstanding person.”
Apprehensive about his workout with the Pirates, Cooper says he was a bit nervous but knew he had to give it all he had.
“I was a little bit nervous at first, but I still went anyway,” he said. “I was thinking to myself that if I just play ball and leave everything on the court, God will handle the rest, and that’s what I did.”
Springboarding off the success of his senior season, Cooper hopes to use that momentum with the Pirates and be an impact player from the outset.
“I believe my senior year helped me a lot,” he said. “I grew up over the past year, and that made me a better person because I had to be a leader and step up for my team. At North Central, I just really got to get used to the system and just play my game. I’m willing to help out the team the best way I can. Hopefully, I will be the man option on the offensive side.”
As most any good player might say, Cooper realizes many helped him along the way, and he expressed gratitude to those who encouraged him and stood by his side.
“I would like to thank the coaching staff and my mom and dad for really pushing me. Lord knows I’m very thankful to have them in my life,” he said. “I would like to thank my teammates for pushing me every day. I might be going to college, but I will be back next year to watch them go on another state-run, cheering them on. Last thing, I just want to tell all the young ones who are willing to play football or basketball at the next level that if you put your mind to it anything is possible.”