Nokois freshman Cooper Flagg surveys the action at a USA Basketball men’s junior national team minicamp workout last weekend in New Orleans. Photo provided by USA Basketball/Harrison Zhang

When ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla watched Cooper Flagg try out for the United States’ U17 men’s basketball team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Tuesday, he quickly recognized the potential of the 15-year-old from Newport.

“What I can give you is a 30,000-foot view of a kid from Maine who is possibly on the verge of stardom or name recognition,” Fraschilla said Thursday. “It’s hard to believe a 15-year-old could be that tall, graceful, agile and skilled for his age. When you watch him play against players of a similar talent and size, and in a group that is older, when you see Cooper’s age to go along with his physical attributes, you kind of get blown away by the possibility of how good he could be five years from now. That’s what stood out to me.”

The 6-foot-8 Flagg was one of 12 players, and one of only two 15-year-olds, selected Wednesday for the U17 national team that will compete at the FIBA U17 World Cup in Spain, from July 2-10. The U17 team will be trying to win its sixth gold medal in a row.

Fraschilla evaluates players from around the world for ESPN for the NBA Draft. Before becoming a head coach — at Manhattan, St. John’s and New Mexico — Fraschilla served stints as an assistant coach at the University of Rhode Island and Providence College. So he is familiar with basketball in the Northeast and in the Pine Tree State.

I think, having lived in New England and knowing basketball in New England, I think it’s easy for someone from the state of Maine to say, ‘Well, how good could he really be? He’s from Maine,’” Fraschilla said. “Or, ‘I bet he’s not as good as Nik Caner-Medley.’ The reality is, it’s a state that hasn’t produced a lot of high level basketball talent, and this kid, when measured against the other best players in the country in his age group, he’s equal to them. And those kids project to be future college stars and first-round picks.

“Cooper, I think it’s safe to say, if anybody was at the training camp who knows basketball, they’d say that there’s a high likelihood that this kid will be a first-round pick someday.”


Barring changes to NBA rules, the earliest Flagg can be drafted is 2026.

Flagg, who led Nokomis to a Class A state title as a freshman this past winter and will attend Montverde Academy in Florida in the upcoming school year, was accompanied to the U17 tryouts by Andy Bedard, the head coach of Flagg’s AAU team, Maine United

Bedard was impressed with how well Flagg worked off the ball, trying to make what Bedard called “winning plays” on every possession.

“When he plays with us, he has the ball in his hands a lot, but when he’s here, they’re the top 25 kids in the country,” Bedard, a former Mountain Valley High School standout, said. “He’s doing a great job of being active, slipping, passing and getting his opportunities there. I see a lot of other guys standing and watching, and he’s being active, pulling, making slips, rebounding in traffic, tip dunking. His one-two dribble to the hole is impressive. His side-step game is great.

“A few of the coaches said he was the best player on the floor. … Everyone is trying to do too much, too quickly. He just naturally lets the game come to him. He’s so mature and wise beyond his years.”

While there are aspects of Flagg’s game that need improvement, Fraschilla is excited about the Varsity Maine and Maine Gatorade player of the year’s potential.

“The thing I like about him is he does everything pretty well,” Fraschilla said. “For a kid his size, he is graceful, agile and skilled. I would say nothing jumps out except everything. … He obviously has weaknesses — he’s not Larry Bird from 3 and he’s not the ‘Greek Freak’ (Giannis Antetokounmpo) athletically — but he has a lot of positive attributes, both physically, skill-wise and from a mental standpoint. You can tell he has a feel for the game. There’s a confidence while playing with other great players out there. He does a lot of different things well.”

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