Mason Cooper has found a second home in Richmond, Kentucky.

The former Lawrence High School boys basketball standout — a 2016-2017 semifinalist for the Mr. Maine Basketball award — is now entering his sixth year at Division I Eastern Kentucky University. He spent his first three years at EKU as a player. For the past two years, Cooper previously served as coordinator of video and digital content.

Cooper, 23, recently was promoted to basketball operations director for the Colonels, who finished 13-18 last year in the ASUN Conference.

“I’m extremely excited,” Cooper said. “I kind of felt like this was something I was ready for. It’s starting to feel like home a little bit. I met my fiancé (former EKU cheerleader Hannah Coots) here, I graduated here twice. I’ve been with (head coach A.W. Hamilton) going on five years now. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to, I’m really excited.”

“The thing I love about Mason is, he’s such a loyal young person,” added Hamilton, who enters his fifth season as EKU’s head coach. “He’s been very loyal to me and this program at Eastern Kentucky. He’s very motivated, which I love about him. He was eager to learn anything about our program, the ins and outs. He’s committed and he loves helping young people. He was the perfect fit for us. He’s gotten so good at doing all the little things to help make our program go. Some guys miss that step when they break into the college ranks. Mason has done it the right way.”

In his new role, Cooper will be tasked with an array of jobs, including planning of travel, hotel accommodations and catering for the team on road trips; helping look after the day-to-day schedules of players as well as Hamilton and the assistants; ordering team gear and handling the team budget. On game days, Cooper makes sure Hamilton and his assistants get updated statistics.


Lawrence High School graduate Mason Cooper, second from left, with play sheet, a former Eastern Kentucky University player, was recently promoted to Director of Basketball Operations. Photo courtesy of Eastern Kentucky University Athletics

“Once you get pregame meal (squared away), then I can kind of relax, shower, get changed for the game,” Cooper said. “But then it’s crazy, because you have to make sure you’re available to print off stat sheets for the bench, you make sure you’ve got pens, highlighters, whatever everyone needs. You even keep an extra play card in your pocket in case (Hamilton) throws his, or gets mad. It’s crazy how many times I’ve given him the backup play sheet. It’s hilarious.”

In the offseason, Cooper helps out with setting up recruiting visits, and keeping on top of Hamilton’s public speaking engagements. Hamilton said Cooper has also been in charge of his youth basketball camps this summer.

“There’s so much responsibility and you have to be so organized,” Hamilton said. “It’s a big job, because there’s so much that goes into it. He’s done so good I’ve thrown camp on him this summer, four weeks of little kids camp and we still have an elite camp later this summer. He has a lot of different hats in this program.”

Cooper played three years at EKU, redshirting his freshman year under former head coach Dan McHale, before playing his final two seasons under Hamilton. Cooper was teammates with former Messalonskee High School star Nick Mayo, who went on to become the program’s all-time leading scorer, and a four-time Ohio Valley Conference first team selection.

After the 2019-2020 season — Hamilton’s second year as head coach — Cooper joined Hamilton’s staff.

“He knows the standard of our program,” Hamilton said. “What we want to accomplish and what we try to accomplish every day. He’s able to help our players, especially our new guys, because he’s been there. He’s walked in their shoes. He’s a relationship builder, he’s a connector, not just with his peers, but with our younger players and people around campus. He’s a home run hire for us.”


Mason Cooper, middle, looks on during an Eastern Kentucky men’s basketball game last season. Photo courtesy of Eastern Kentucky University Athletics

Cooper is following in the footsteps of another Lawrence graduate, Keith Chesley, who was hired in the spring as an assistant at Virginia Military Institute, a fellow Division I program. Chesley served in the role of director of basketball operations at Stetson University in Florida, Georgia Southern University and James Madison University before moving on to an assistant role at Army West Point last year. Cooper has reached out to Chesley for advice in the past.

“He was someone I could trust to answer questions for me and be honest,” Cooper said. “In this industry, it can kind of be a slippery slope sometimes with people. But he was always someone that I trusted, because we came from the same place… Watching him go to James Madison, then Army, now VMI, it’s special because I know how hard it is on a day-to-day basis. But seeing someone else from your neck of the woods doing the same thing, it’s special. I still talk to Keith, he’s a lot busier than I am (these days) because he’s recruiting, times 10, but he’s a really, really nice guy.”

Like Chesley, Cooper said he hopes to have a long coaching career. In the meantime, he’s excited about the Colonels’ prospects for the upcoming season.

“I can’t thank (Hamilton) enough for all the opportunities he’s given me,” Cooper said. “I’m just a little kid from Maine here at a Division I school, working for him and all the assistants we have. The job is stressful and it’s hard, but it’s a blessing, it really is.”

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