SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Missouri State basketball team had three freshmen play considerable minutes in the 2019-20 season.
“It’s been something that I have wanted to do since 9th grade,” Ford Cooper Jr. said. “It was in the plan the whole time.”
But the youngest in the litter of cubs, Cooper Jr., knew the second he stepped on his high school campus, that college ball was the goal.
“I felt like I wanted to move on to the next step,” Cooper Jr. said. “I felt like I was done with high school.”
So he reclassified. Spending his summer playing basketball in various camps and attending classes.
“I did summer school and then 12th grade in the summer, so I could come here ,” Cooper Jr. said.
Cooper was a four-star recruit out of United Faith Christian Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina. But he says, it wasn’t always the first to get the eyes of the recruiters.
“Recruiting was kind of crazy. I wasn’t really known at first, so I was trying to keep going hard, playing and trying to get myself known ,” Cooper Jr. said. “Finally it started coming at the end.”
And the roads were pointing to Missouri State. A college in a state Cooper had never been to before his visit.
“When I got here, I saw campus and I was like, yeah this is really nice ,” Cooper Jr. said. “Then they were telling me it doesn’t get super cold, I mean it gets cold a little bit, so I was like alright I’m going to do it.”
While he isn’t afraid to take the shots when he sees fit, Cooper finds he’s at his best when he’s dishing. Something his teammates are appreciative of.
“He’s a true point guard. He always tries to get his team involved,” fellow freshman Ja’Monta Black said. “It’s always nice having a true point guard who will pass first instead of scoring first. It’s always fun to play with a point guard like that.”
“I have played with a guy that is a pass first point guard, I think Ford is just like that too,” freshman guard Isiaih Mosley said. “It makes the game easier when you play with someone that isn’t always looking for his shot, but looks to pass and gets a lot of assists.”
Cooper played in 26 games with the Bears, starting in five of them. He’s played as much as 26 minutes in a game, and played as few as 1 minute. But he continues to take the process in stride.
“It’s different, but you just have to step out of your box to grow ,” Cooper Jr. said. “That’s how I look at it.”