There’s a slight twang to Mason Cooper’s voice now. The Lawrence High School graduate is now a 21-year old young man of the South, not just of southern Somerset County.

“It’s year four, man,” Cooper said. “I’m not really having to pahk my cah anymore.”

Saturday was a game day for the Eastern Kentucky University men’s basketball team. The Colonels were getting set to host Transylvania University in a late afternoon non-conference game. After spending three season on the EKU roster, Cooper is now the team’s coordinator of video and digital content.

In his new job, Cooper prepares video of the Colonels upcoming opponents for the coaching staff to scout. If head coach AW Hamilton or one of the assistants wants tape of a certain inbounds play Morehead State runs often, Cooper delivers it. With Saturday’s game against Transylvania a non-conference game against a Division III opponent, delivering the scouting report to the team was Cooper’s job.

It’s a natural position for Cooper, who edited his own highlight videos to send to college coaches while playing basketball at Lawrence High School, where he scored 1,000 points. Taking the job meant the end of Cooper’s playing career, but it wasn’t as tough a transition as you might expect.

“To be honest, I kind of got a little burned out on it,” Cooper said of his three seasons as a member of the EKU men’s basketball team.

Cooper was a walk-on at Eastern Kentucky. His first season was a redshirt year, where Cooper practiced and learned about playing Division I college basketball but was not on the active roster. The last two seasons, he saw action in 15 of the 64 games played by the Colonels, scoring 14 total points.

“My freshman year, I thought I was going to be the next Baker Mayfield. That’s what every walk-on thinks, right? It didn’t take long to figure out it wasn’t going to be that way,” Cooper said.

At times, Cooper thought about the what ifs. What if he had played Division III basketball closer to home? What if he went to the University of New England or Springfield College, two Division III schools he had considered and where he most certainly would have seen much more significant playing time.

Those thoughts were never overpowering or prevalent. If he hadn’t played a few seasons at EKU, Cooper wouldn’t have been to places like the Virgin Islands. He wouldn’t have been teammates with and friends with guys from all over the country. All over the world, really. Fourteen points and 15 games was worth it for the life Cooper is building. He was a Division I college basketball player, and that comes with no regrets.

Mason Cooper

“I had a blast, be able to contribute even a little,” Cooper said.

Cooper earned his degree in sports management in just three years. He picked up a few credits taking classes at Kennebec Valley Community College while still a high school student at Lawrence. When he stayed at EKU’s Richmond, Kentucky campus all summer to work out with his teammates, he took five classes instead of two. Cooper graduated from Eastern Kentucky last spring in a virtual ceremony that he thinks was tougher on his parents than himself. When he enrolled in graduate school, Hamilton created the job Cooper now holds to keep him involved in the program.

“I’m so grateful to him,” Cooper said.

He’s also grateful for a couple coaching mentors with Maine ties he’s developed. There’s Keith Chesley, a fellow Lawrence graduate who is now director of operations for the men’s basketball team at James Madison University in Virginia. There’s also John Aiken, a Portland native who is the associate head coach at McNeese State in Louisiana.

The Colonels entered Saturday’s game with a 4-1 record, including a win over Ohio Valley Conference rival Morehead State. The lone loss was a tight 99-96 overtime loss at Big East member Xavier. Covid-19 is always in the background. Cooper and everybody associated with the team are tested multiple times each week. There’s a 27-game schedule. The Colonels haven’t had one postponed or cancelled yet.

“We haven’t had any major issues. We go game by game and hope to get them all in,” Cooper said.

That slight twang in Cooper voice, it’s not just four years living in Kentucky manifesting itself. It’s also excitement at the start of his coaching journey. It’s enthusiasm and anticipation.


Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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