The accolades keep coming for Cooper Flagg. Days after the Nokomis Regional High freshman was named Varsity Maine Men’s Basketball Player of the Year, ESPN ranked Flagg the third-highest college basketball prospect nationwide. national in the class of 2025.
Flagg, 15, is heading for an undoubtedly bright basketball future. Every decision he and his twin brother, Ace, made regarding their budding basketball careers was made by the Flagg family with great thought. After leading Nokomis to the first men’s basketball title in school history, Cooper and Ace will continue their basketball careers at Florida’s Montverde Academy, a school that regularly produces college and NBA players. Seven former Montverde players were selected in the 2021 NBA draft, including first overall pick Cade Cunningham. The Flaggs should sprint towards this opportunity.
The rest of us are the ones who need to slow down. Cooper Flagg might just become Maine’s best basketball player. But giving it that label now is at best premature, and at worst willfully ignorant of history.
Cooper Flagg is the player who stands at the confluence of talent and time – a hugely talented player in an age when nothing goes unnoticed. This season, the 6-foot-7 Flagg has averaged 20.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.7 steals and 3.7 blocks per game. He hit 62% of his shot. Each dunk made the rounds on social media, which helped create the hyperbole.
A recent YouTube video called him the “LeBron of Maine.” This is absolutely, positively, 100% ridiculous. It’s bad form to compare any high school athlete to a professional. It’s unwise to compare a high school athlete, even one as unquestionably talented as Flagg, to one of the greatest players in basketball history.
That’s what social media does. He declares that everything new is the best and the greatest. And it forgets. Combine that with the fact that Maine produces fewer NCAA Division I basketball players than most other states, so when a player of Flagg’s caliber comes along, memory becomes shorter and cloudier.
In the last generation, about 20 years ago, we’ve seen Maine players enjoy not only successful college careers, but professional careers as well. Deering’s Nik Caner-Medley and Edward Little’s Troy Barnies have made a very good living playing professional basketball overseas after playing in Maryland and Maine respectively. Messalonskee’s Nick Mayo, a self-confessed late basketball player, set scoring records in Eastern Kentucky and is now enjoying success as a professional player in Japan.
Before having a strong college career at Florida State and a pro career in Europe, Ralph Mims scored 41 points, including 35 in a row, for Brunswick in a 51-42 win over Bangor in the class championship game. A from the East in 2004. With every ounce of defensive energy focused on stopping Mims, the Rams still couldn’t do it. Mims scored 80% of his team’s points and nearly passed Bangor himself, and he didn’t score a point in the first quarter.
Going back a little further in the 1990s, there was TJ Caouette at Winthrop High, who had 63 scholarship offers before choosing to play at Villanova, and Andy Bedard, who moved from Mountain Valley High to the basketball greenhouse. Maine Central Institute (the Montverde Academy of its day) before playing collegiately at Boston College and Maine.
The gold standard for Maine high school hoops is still Cindy Blodgett, who did things in Lawrence that no Maine girls’ or boys’ basketball player had done before or since. She just didn’t make it on Instagram.
But Maine has never seen a player as touted as Cooper Flagg, and social media amplifies that. Nobody got the national attention they got in such a short time. He is potentially personified. If he keeps working hard, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, he’ll be up to it.
Cooper Flagg could become Maine’s best basketball player. In one high school prom season, he’s on the right track. Before we crown him, let’s at least get his driver’s license.
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