Ta’Lon Cooper, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound third year sophomore guard from Morehead State, announced Wednesday that he was transferring to Minnesota. He could have two years of eligibility for the Gophers.
Cooper averaged 9.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game and was named to the 10-man first team All-Ohio Valley Conference this season. He led the conference in assists.
Cooper averaged 8.2 points and 3.6 assists per game as a sophomore and 7.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as a freshman.
GopherHole caught up with Cooper Thursday afternoon to learn more about his decision.
GopherHole: You committed to Minnesota yesterday. What was the main reason that you decided that Minnesota was where you wanted to play college basketball next year?
Ta’Lon Cooper: First, they had my major there, so academically, I could still finish my degree and graduate and on the basketball side, Coach Johnson and the whole staff, they recruited me the hardest out of any school that recruited me. Coach Johnson was the first head coach to call on me and talk to me and consistently talk to me all the time, so it just showed that they needed me, not wanted me. That was my biggest thing in recruitment, showing me that you needed me and not wanted me.
GopherHole: I know that you were getting looks from other colleges. Did you have a final three or final five or had you narrowed it down to that level before you committed?
Ta’Lon Cooper: I was kind of feeling out schools, but the schools that were showing me that they needed me was USC and Minnesota. Those were my top two.
GopherHole: Had you visited USC?
Ta’Lon Cooper: No. The crazy part was I was supposed to visit USC this past weekend and they told me that I wouldn’t be eligible because they didn’t have my major, so I would lose a lot of credits. I couldn’t go there, because I didn’t want to have to sit out and so I went to Minnesota this past weekend, Sunday through Tuesday and fell in love with it.
GopherHole: I think that you were also hearing Georgetown and Iowa State. What were some of the other schools that you were hearing from?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Georgetown, Iowa State, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, South Carolina and Florida.
GopherHole: Was Minnesota your only visit you made?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Yes. That’s the only visit I made.
GopherHole: What all did you get a chance to see and do when you were here?
Ta’Lon Cooper: I got to see the facilities. I got to meet some of my future teammates. Meet the academic advisors. Ate really good. Got to see downtown. Got to see the campus
GopherHole: I know that they usually bring you to some nice restaurants. Where did you get a chance to eat?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Hen House for breakfast and Smack Shack.
GopherHole: Had you ever been to Minnesota before?
Ta’Lon Cooper: No, sir. Never been to Minnesota.
GopherHole: Did you go to the Mall of America at all?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Oh, yeah. I went to the Mall of America my last day, Tuesday. My first time there, too.
GopherHole: To be honest, Minnesota has some good players coming back and a good recruiting class coming in, but the one thing that they are lacking is a point guard. Is that something that they talked to you about and that you would be one of the things that are missing on the roster?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Yes, sir.
GopherHole: Because of having the extra COVID year, a lot of players are exploring other options. When did you decide that you could maybe play at a higher level than Morehead State?
Ta’Lon Cooper: When our season had ended, I was doing a lot of thinking and talking to my parents and just wanted to test the waters and try to see if I can go high major. When I entered the portal, I wasn’t thinking that high major schools were really going to call me, but once they started calling, I knew that it was meant for me to go high major and test the waters and see what I can do against high level competition every night.
GopherHole: At Morehead State, your numbers improved every year. You got more playing time this year and were an All-Ohio Valley Conference selection. Was it hard to leave the players and the coaching staff there?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Yes, it was very difficult, to be honest with you. It was a lot of relationships built with friends and the coaching staff. A lot had played into it, because one of our assistants that recruited me to come here, left to go to Murray State. Me and him was really close, so that had a little bit to do with it.
GopherHole: You are going to be playing in the Big Ten, which has a lot of talent, but is known for being a more physical league than others. Is that something that you have noticed or people have told you about the Big Ten?
Ta’Lon Cooper: A lot of people don’t know that I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. I was born in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for ten years, so growing up I knew a lot about the Big Ten, watching Michigan and Michigan State, so I know a lot about the Big Ten. I know that is a physical league. One of the best leagues in the nation, so I grew up around the Big Ten a lot.
GopherHole: I wondered since you have a 313 area code phone number. What caused you to move when you were that young?
Ta’Lon Cooper: My dad works for the railroads, so he got another job down here for the railroad and they transferred him to South Carolina, so we followed.
GopherHole: I know that you played high school basketball with Zion Williamson. Did you always know that he was going to be a star?
Ta’Lon Cooper: If I’m going to be honest with you, No. My eighth grade and his ninth grade year, we both played varsity. He was this skinny kid, like 6-3, 150 maybe. He was tiny. Then, the next year, my ninth grade year and his tenth grade year, he came back “Zion Williamson,” so it was crazy to see that. From that point on, I knew he was going to be something special.
GopherHole: You have a lot of experience playing three years of college basketball. For Minnesota fans who have never seen you play, what do you see as your strengths as a basketball player?
Ta’Lon Cooper: My strength is being a leader. My IQ. My passing ability. Just the willingness to lay my body on the line, if I have to. Playing defense. Just trying to be an all-around player for the team. Just do whatever it takes to win. Make winning plays.
GopherHole: When you came out of high school. What school were you hearing from besides Morehead? Were you hearing from a lot of schools?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Besides Morehead, I was hearing from like seven schools. Radford, Presbyterian College, USC Upstate, SE Mo, Charleston Southern, UNC Asheville and Sanford.
GopherHole: If I had told you three or four years ago when you were a high school senior that down the road, you are going to hear from Georgetown, Iowa State, Minnesota and USC, what would you have thought?
Ta’Lon Cooper: I would have thought you were crazy.
GopherHole: Was that kind of overwhelming in a way? You have experience and teams are looking for players that can step in right away, but was it overwhelming to hear from so many schools once you put your name into the transfer portal?
Ta’Lon Cooper: I wouldn’t say overwhelming. Three years at Morehead, like you said, I improved every year. I put a lot of hard work into my craft, so I think it was more that I deserved it.
GopherHole: What do you like to do away from the basketball court.
Ta’Lon Cooper: To be honest, I like to just hang out with my friends, teammates and play video games.
GopherHole: What’s your go-to game?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Go-to game is 2K. I actually have a little clan that I play with. Probably the best 2K clan ever.
GopherHole: Are you planning on being up here in June?
Ta’Lon Cooper: Yes, sir. I’ll be there June 6th