College basketball: Tide's Cooper no longer defines himself by points
by Marq Burnett
Feb 21, 2014 | 2190 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant celebrates with Rodney Cooper (21) after Cooper's block sealed a Crimson Tide win over LSU. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant celebrates with Rodney Cooper (21) after Cooper's block sealed a Crimson Tide win over LSU. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)
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TUSCALOOSA -- When Alabama forward Rodney Cooper arrived at Alabama, he defined success by the number of points he scored.

Rated as a three-star prospect by the major recruiting services, Cooper starred for Russell County in Hurtsboro, averaging 31.3 points and 10.4 rebounds a game. Like most prep players, he wanted to fill up the scoreboard at the collegiate level.

“Coop has been a guy since day one for us has had opportunities to play, to develop, to grow and I think he’s shown a lot of growth this year,” Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant said. “Walking in the door, Coop was a guy that envisioned himself as a scorer and kind of in his mind based whether or not he played well on whether or not the ball went in the whole for him.”

Now a 6-foot-6, 215-pound junior, Cooper has worked on his game and become a do-it-all type player for the Tide. Although Alabama (10-16) has struggled with six losses in its last seven games, Cooper has averaged 7.9 points and a team-high 4.9 rebounds a game. Those numbers have increased to 8.2 and 5.2 in conference play.

“I think he’s matured to the point where he does different things for us,” Grant said. “He’s our leading rebounder right now. If you look at his assist-to-turnover ratio, he’s getting other guys involved. He’s diversified his game which is good to see. On a team that’s looking for guys to be more consistent from a scoring standpoint, he’s a guy that has the ability to provide that.

“But in basketball, there’s a lot of different ways you can affect winning. We’re trying to get him and the rest of our guys to embrace that and I think he’s done a good job of that.”

Cooper has started 17 of the Tide’s 26 games after starting 34 of 35 a year ago.

“My basketball IQ has been my biggest improvement throughout my career,” Cooper said. “I’m just trying to grow and be an all-around player.”

Senior guard Trevor Releford has noticed Cooper’s growth and said it has contributed to the Tide’s success.

“He’s improved a lot since he arrived at school here,” Releford said. “He came in with a scorer’s mentality, but he helps us with way more stuff on the floor than just scoring. It has helped us out a lot in some of the games we’ve won this year. Him making the extra pass, getting a rebound and even stepping up and making big shots after missing a couple.”

Still, there are areas in which Cooper said he can improve.

“I want to be more aggressive on the court,” he said. “I also want to be a more vocal leader instead of always trying to lead by example.”

For the year, Cooper has had offensive explosions when he has lead the team in scoring, games with double-doubles and a few contests where he failed to score in double figures, but grabbed 10 rebounds. But which type of game does he prefer?

“The game that gets us the W,” he said.
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