As humble and selfless of a teenager David Cooper is, leaving as Tumwater High School’s all-time leading scorer in boys basketball with 1,452 career points and being named the 2A Evergreen Conference Most Valuable Player twice, he wants to be remembered for other attributes.
It’s what he accomplished for the school with his teammates that takes precedence: a league title (a first for Tumwater boys basketball), a district title to go alongside the program’s 1976 regional title in addition to a 20-win season.
“I’d take the feeling of cutting down the nets everyday over the individual accolades,” Cooper said. “I’m lucky to be with this group of guys.”
That’s David Cooper.
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Junior guard Spencer Dowers said he feels Cooper, The Olympian All-Area boys basketball player of the year, will be remembered as the school’s best for years to come, and for the qualities that stretch further than the impressive on-the-court statistics.
“He’s an incredible man,” Dowers said. “If I were ever in a fight, and there was a bear, he would fight the bear to its death before (the bear would) do anything to me. He’d have my back.”
Winning and success followed the Thunderbirds in their historic season, falling one game short of the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament. Still, looking back, the 6-foot-5 guard sensed the magic surrounding the team this season.
“This team was different,” Cooper said, “and I knew we could do something special.”
Special, it was. They experienced back-to-back picturesque postgame net-cutting ceremonies with a win at home over Black Hills, 63-51, on Feb. 6 to clinch the EvCo regular-season title, followed by a 2A District 4 title with a 57-54 victory over Mark Morris at Saint Martin’s University on Feb. 20.
Tumwater is not just a football school (25 league titles) anymore, Cooper saidys.
“I was so happy we were the team to do it,” he said.
And Cooper, who scored 20.6 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field this season, has led the way from the beginning.
Growing up in a military family, Cooper recently accepted an appointment into the United States Air Force Academy, following in the footsteps of his father, David Cooper, Sr., a retired Air Force colonel. The core values, responsiveness and service are focal points for Cooper in life and in basketball.
“Something I try to do is be a (role) model and set the standard,” said Cooper, who plans to play basketball for the Falcons. “Set the example for the players and push everyone to be their best.”
The late Duane Cordiner (1,064 career points from 1962-64) set the long-standing career scoring mark at Tumwater. Hundreds of players have worn kelly green and white, and another handful of coaches have passed through in the 50 years since, yet none touched Cordiner’s mark. It was Cooper’s record to break entering his senior season with 956 points, and did so in his 28-point performance in a 73-67 win over White River on Dec. 17.
Second-year Tumwater coach Thomas Rowswell said he feels Cooper has cemented his place in the Thunderbirds’ athletic hall of fame, a legacy that started three years ago as a reserve freshman guard. But more importantly, Rowswell said, he has set the bar high for future players.
“He’s as good as it gets,” Rowswell said.
The Olympian’s all-area boys basketball team
G David Cooper, sr., Tumwater
Cooper, The Olympian’s all-area player of the year and 2A EvCo co-MVP, led the Thunderbirds to a historic season (league, district titles), averaging 20.6 points and seven rebounds per game. Plans to play basketball at the United States Air Force Academy.
PG Brandell Evans, sr., Timberline
4A Narrows League’s defensive MVP was the motor that ran the Blazers to a league crown, as well as a regional berth for a third straight year. In addition to averaging better than three steals per game, averaged 13 points and six assists.
PG TJ Mickelson, soph., Black Hills
Count on Mickelson, the 2A EvCo co-MVP, to consistently have big games. Averaged an area-best 26.1 points, eight assists and three steals per game, leading Black Hills to the district playoffs. Already with 966 career points.
G LaBrandon Price, jr., River Ridge
Plays bigger than his 6-foot-1 frame (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists per game) and not afraid to score inside, either. Turned up his game in the postseason to help the Hawks to the 2A state quarterfinals.
P Tyler Speaks, sr., Shelton
Few teams had success against Speaks; 3A Narrows League coaches called him a load in the paint. His 17.4 points and six rebounds a game helped the Highclimbers to the bi-district tournament.
Coach of the year: Thomas Rowswell, Tumwater
G Kobe Key, jr., River Ridge
G Ty Gentry, jr., Tumwater
P Jarryn Bush, jr., Timberline
P Wes Reynolds, jr., North Thurston
P Christian Davis, jr., Yelm