compassion 15Dec20 2

Once a Bulldog…Always a Bulldog!

For Gage Cooper, a senior at McCurtain High School, it’s more than just playing basketball and baseball. It’s a cherished way of life. “It is very special, we all have such a close bond and I consider my coaches and teammates family,” said the four-year starter on the school’s basketball and baseball teams. “I can always count on my teammates or coach to have my back in any situation and to always be there for me when I need them.”

For Cooper, it’s also heartfelt pride in the rural community that anchors around the Oklahoma highways 31 and 26 intersection. “We have a very close knit community that is so supportive. Everyone is all for one and one for all. I wouldn’t trade this town or my team for anything in the world.”

Playing basketball since he was five years old, Cooper points with pride to his one and only jersey that still reads McCurtain Bulldogs. “Ethan (Satterfield) and I started playing basketball together in kindergarten. Since the eighth grade, it’s been the same group of guys playing with intensity building a strong chemistry of teamwork.”

The 6’1 guard is averaging 16.5 points per game plus grabbing three rebounds and assists per game during his senior season. Cooper’s ability to get to the rim opens the doorway for his teammates to put points on the scoreboard. “Coach (Dillon) Monday calls me a slashing guard,” said Cooper who wears the number 32 jersey inspired by the play of another Oklahoman, Blake Griffin. “Driving to score on a layup is the highest percentage shot and a chance to go to the free throw line plus when defenders collapse, it leaves my teammates wide open for the three pointer.”

The head coach of the Bulldogs compliments Cooper for his perseverance to improve daily. “Gage has stepped up into a bigger larger role this season, far beyond his team leading stats,” said Monday. “His competitiveness and work ethic leads by example in everything he does, on the court or baseball field as well in the classroom and our community.

Like many, Cooper enjoys video games including NBA 2k21 and Call of Duty Cold War while relaxing to Red Dirt Country from Cody Jinks or Tyler Childers and munching on a pan of pizza rolls.

When asked for a self-description, Cooper paused before responding with a look of high expectations. “Confidence allows me to remain calm and be an effective leader in crunch time, but most important for me is intelligence. I take pride in my grades plus it’s an asset when playing basketball and the mental part of the game.”

Cooper, who maintains a 4.14 GPA will graduate as Valedictorian of his class and has completed 24 hours of college credits that will give him a fast start toward pursuing a college degree in Health and Human Performance and a career in physical therapy.

Growing up in a small community, Cooper admits everyone knows everyone and that someone is always watching to see what you do. With high hopes for a trip to play in the state tournaments in basketball and baseball as well as enjoying an in-person graduation, there’s one thing that tops the list of responsibilities in order to complete his legacy at McCurtain High School. “I’ll always remember coach (Casey) Butcher’s advice…a house divided won’t stand and making team unity a priority,” he said. “By my example, I want to leave a footprint for others to follow. I hope the younger kids can embrace a commitment, that through hard work you can play sports and have good grades plus take time to help someone else along the way achieve their dreams.”

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