Junior college transfer should see more playing time

Cooper has performed at high level, impacted Cougars when on court



Junior forward Davante Cooper discusses the transition to Division I and describes some of the challenges he has faced over his career.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

As the WSU men’s basketball team prepares for two home games against Utah and Colorado this weekend, Head Coach Ernie Kent addressed some of the issues that he has seen in the roster.

Kent alluded to the Cougars’ lack of size as a contributing factor for their struggles against opposing forwards in the Pac-12. But part of the solution may already be sitting on the Cougars’ bench.

Junior forward Davante Cooper, who stands at 6-foot-11-inches, possesses the rim-protecting abilities that would neutralize some of the matchup issues WSU faces.

In the absence of junior forward Robert Franks against Oregon last Sunday, Kent gave Cooper his first start in a WSU uniform. In 32 minutes, Cooper had seven points while pulling down five rebounds and a block. The numbers don’t jump out of the box score, but they may be a sign of Cooper developing some comfort in the rotation.

“I definitely see Davante really helping us,” Kent said. “He is starting to play a lot better and with a lot more confidence, and he made a difference in the Oregon game, being the biggest player on the floor.”

Both of WSU’s upcoming opponents have frontcourts with forwards capable of causing more matchup issues for the Cougars. Even with Franks back in the lineup Cooper’s name may need to be called upon to relieve the pressure of bigger opposing bodies.

Cougar fans haven’t seen much of Cooper in his first season at WSU. Before his start at Oregon, he only played a little more than 50 minutes for the entire season. However, if Kent is pleased with his form, it is possible Cooper’s minutes could go up.

“I hoped he would have played a bigger role sooner,” Kent said. “But my thing with players … come at your own pace. In his case, he struggled early on and now all of the sudden he has got some things figured out, and here he comes.”

Of the three junior college transfers WSU took in, Cooper has not caught his stride with the team like fellow sophomore guard Carter Skaggs and junior guard Kwinton Hinson. But even with Cooper’s role for the remainder of the year unclear, he understands what is asked of him when he is on the floor.

“I am the biggest dude on the team, so I know I got to guard those dudes,” Cooper said. “I felt like I put on a good display of what I can do against bigs in this conference against Arizona, with the little time that I played.”

Although WSU lost to Arizona handily on the back of Arizona’s frontcourt, Cooper racked up a career-high three blocks in just 11 minutes of action, further demonstrating Coopers rim-protecting abilities.

While Cooper is excited at the prospect of more playing time, he has not let that affect the team’s goal of winning. He and the rest of the team have tried to keep themselves away from the negative press that has accumulated from their lack of success, and focus on improving.

“Even if I just played two minutes in a game, I’ll still go in and watch film to learn from those two minute,” Cooper said. “Trying to cheer my teammates on and stay involved with everything that’s going on. I wasn’t really worried about me not playing, I was worried about how am I going to get us ready to win.”