Montverde Academy’s Cooper Flagg drives to the basket during a game at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., in January 2023. Flagg, a Newport native, is the top-ranked high school player in the country, according to ESPN. Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Friday night will be a busy one for Isaiah Brathwaite. The Cony High boys’ basketball coach will lead his team against Nokomis Regional High at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, and then go to the stands to watch Cooper Flagg and the Montverde Academy basketball team take the floor.

He’ll watch the game with his 12-year-old son, Carter, a basketball standout. Brathwaite can’t wait. He knows Carter can’t, either.

“My son looks up to Cooper a lot,” said Brathwaite. “He’s really looking forward to watching him play. Coop gives him an inspiration and gives him motivation, and something to look forward to and live up to.”

Twin brothers Cooper and Ace Flagg, 17, of Newport are returning home to play in the much-anticipated Maine Event, a two-day showcase featuring their prep team, Montverde Academy of Florida, rated by ESPN as the top high school basketball team in the country. Both games – at Cross arena Friday night at 7:30, and at the Portland Expo Saturday night at 6 – are sold out. Tickets for Friday night’s game were gone in 24 hours. The games will be streamed on, which charges a subscription fee.

It’s an unprecedented event for Maine, giving basketball fans here a chance – perhaps a final one – to see an unprecedented player in his home state. When Cooper Flagg last played in a high school basketball game in Maine, he led Nokomis to the 2022 Class A championship, scoring 22 points with 16 rebounds against Falmouth as a freshman.

Since then, his national stock has skyrocketed, culminating in status as ESPN’s top-ranked high school player in the country and a commitment to play for powerhouse Duke University next season. The player who two years ago was playing in high school gyms in central Maine is now a household name, a prospect being sought out after games by LeBron James, and ESPN’s favorite to be the top overall pick in the NBA draft in 2025.


Fans are eager to see Cooper and Ace, who has seen his own profile rise and lead to NCAA Division I offers. And the twins are ready to thrill the thousands who will turn out.

Cooper and Ace Flagg pose as part of a team photo taken during a practice with their club basketball team, Maine United, in Auburn last June. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“Being able to come home to Maine and play in a big arena with a lot of support from everybody, I’m just really excited,” Cooper Flagg said. “The basketball support in Maine is really good too. People go really crazy for basketball up there during the season. Since we travel so much and play a lot of neutral site games, we don’t get that as much.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to put on a show for everybody in Maine.”

The games this weekend will be part of doubleheaders. Montverde will play Gonzaga College High School of Washington, D.C., on Friday, and CATS Academy Boston on Saturday. The games, put on by Made Hoops, will follow contests with a Maine appeal: Cony plays Nokomis at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and Kimball Union Academy plays St. Paul’s School and former Oxford Hills star Teigan Pelletier Saturday at 4.

“Maine is one big small town, as we like to say. For the community to be able to come together and watch one of our own is just really cool,” said South Portland boys’ basketball coach Kevin Millington, who will be at the Expo for the Saturday game. “Everybody thinks of Cooper as one of us, one of ours. We don’t get that very often.”



The summer was ending when Chad Babel ran with an idea. Babel is the CEO of Made Hoops, a New York-based company that stages basketball events. He got to know the Flagg twins and their parents, Ralph and Kelly Flagg, when the boys were playing in the Made League, an invitation-only circuit of top middle school club teams, four years ago.

Babel has remained close with the Flaggs since, and after both players impressed during tournament play last summer and Cooper reclassified to graduate in 2024, he approached the family and Montverde Academy with a plan to bring them home.

“That kid epitomizes Maine,” Babel said. “He has a ton of love for his state, he reps it really hard. … We just thought it was a really cool story, and a really cool opportunity.”

Babel reached out to the Flaggs and Montverde in August. Montverde Coach Kevin Boyle, who said his team makes it a priority to schedule a homecoming game for his out-of-state players, was on board. So was the Flagg family. Kelly Flagg took the lead in working with Made Hoops to schedule the contests.

Nokomis freshman Cooper Flagg takes a jump shot against Falmouth during the Class A state championship game on March 5, 2022, in Portland. Flagg scored 22 points and had 16 rebounds in Nokomis’ 43-27 victory. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“It was big smiles, and kind of the head nod,” Babel said of Cooper’s and Ace’s reactions. “It wasn’t necessarily a verbal ‘Let’s go’ or anything like that. It was more of ‘Hey, I’m coming home, that’s going to be fun’ kind of energy.”

Now that it’s arrived, the enthusiasm hasn’t dimmed.


“A bunch of my family and friends have told me, ‘Yeah, I got tickets to the game, can’t wait to see you,’ ” Ace Flagg said. “I’m super excited for it. It’s going to be a great time, I think, going back to my home. I’m just hoping we can put on a good show.”

Cooper Flagg said he’s eager to see faces in the sold-out crowd he hasn’t seen in months.

“It’s always been something that we’ve been looking forward to ever since it really became a thing, but as we get closer and closer, the excitement starts to build more and more. It feels more realistic,” he said. “I really wanted to do it, and I think it could have a lot of meaning.”


Millington, the South Portland coach, remembers his formal introduction to Cooper Flagg in December 2021. The Red Riots, with their own star in current University of Tennessee freshman J.P. Estrella, hosted Nokomis for an exhibition that went to double overtime. South Portland appeared to have the game won when Jaelen Jackson ran to the net for a tiebreaking layup in the closing seconds.

Out of nowhere, Nokomis’ 6-foot-7 freshman came swooping in.


“(Cooper) blocked it to half court,” Millington said. “I didn’t think there was any chance he could get there. And he did.”

Millington’s only seen that ability grow.

“I’ve never seen a player with the court awareness that he has,” he said. “He just seems to be mentally one step ahead, both offensively and defensively, of everyone he plays.”

Cooper Flagg signs a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Duke University during a ceremony at Montverde Academy in Florida in November. Photo courtesy of Kelly Flagg

Talents like those are have propelled Cooper Flagg to the peak of the national recruiting scene – and made up-and-coming basketball players believe they can write a similar story.

“When they see a kid from Newport, Maine, being able to come and make the grand stage and play at the highest level … it gives kids motivation, it gives kids hope,” Brathwaite said. “If they dedicate themselves to any team they want, they can do it.”

Though Cooper and Ace moved on after their freshman years at Nokomis to play high school basketball in Florida, they’ve kept their ties to where they grew up. Both players play during the summer for the Maine United club team, and have elevated that team to national recognition.

Millington said that means a lot for the local community.

“He went and played in the highest level of tournaments with ‘Maine’ on his jersey. He chose that,” he said. “He could have gone to play for any of the big sneaker teams. He had the pick of the litter with that.

“He’s proud to be from Maine, and that makes it easier for us to be proud of him.”

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