Cooper comes through in clutch to fuel Myrtle Beach’s successful season

For The Sun NewsMarch 15, 2014 

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

  • The team

    Player of the Year

    Soloman Cooper

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | A class AAA All-State selection, Region VII-AAA Player of the Year was named to the North-South All-Star game after averaging 14.5 points, six rebounds and three steals per game for the Seahawks. Converted 55 percent of his shot attempts and was 71 percent from the free-throw line.

    Adonis Williams

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Senior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | Two-time All-Region VIII-AA pick helped the Warriors back to the state playoffs after averaging 15.7 points per game and leading the team in scoring each of the last two years.

    Matt Lindsey

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | Class AAA All-State selection was also a first-team Region VII-AAA and Coastal Basketball Coaches Association honoree after recording 17.1 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

    Christian Jeffords

    School | Conway

    Class | Junior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | All-Region VI-AAAA and All-Coastal Basketball Coaches Association honoree scored 14 points per game while also averaging 3.5 assists and 2.8 steals per game for the Tigers.

    Brooks Swanson

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | Helped Myrtle Beach to Class AAA Lower State title game after averaging 14 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals per game for the Seahawks. Was an All-Region VII-AAA and All-CBCA selection.

    Koel Cutler

    School | Socastee

    Class | Senior

    Position | Guard

    Noteworthy | Region VII-AAA First Team pick was the Beach Ball Classic 3-point contest winner and a West Florence Turkey Shootout All-Tournament Team selection after averaging 15.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

The latest rise of Myrtle Beach basketball was in step with that of Soloman Cooper.

The Toast of the Coast Boys Basketball Player of the Year led the Seahawks to their best season in six years, as Myrtle Beach advanced to the Class AAA Lower State title game.

“I’ve never had a kid grow more and do more for the team,” Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin said. “He went from a kid concerned about numbers to a kid who couldn’t care less. … Whatever we needed to do to win, he did it. If we needed him to score 25 points to win, he did it. If we needed him to hit a last-second shot, he did it.”

Cooper accomplished both this season en route to averaging 14.5 points per game.

On top of that, the 6-foot senior did it in some of the team’s biggest outings. Cooper averaged 16 points in the three games against Region VII-AAA rival North Myrtle Beach, which the Seahawks defeated in a tiebreaker to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the state tournament.

Cooper also averaged more than 23 points in three Beach Ball Classic games and 15 per game during the Panther Classic. Those are figures Martin would have expected to see from Cooper had he been playing for a team that kept him on the court for 28-30 minutes per game.

That wasn’t necessary, as Myrtle Beach’s guard-filled roster at times was run more like a hockey lineup.

“I wouldn’t trade it at all,” Cooper said. “I love playing with the people I played with. It was like a family. I wouldn’t play for anyone else. The run we had, the way we played together as a team. Nobody thought we would make it as far as we did. We had to go out and prove people wrong night after night.”

Myrtle Beach worked its way up to from the list of unranked preseason teams to the No. 1 spot in the state heading into the postseason. It defeated Berkeley, Hartsville and Midland Valley at home in the playoffs before falling one game short of the state finals.

The fact the Seahawks got that far, though, had quite a bit to do with Cooper. He understood the mismatches he had over most opponents, and he took advantage. He completed 55 percent of his attempts as a senior, disproving the theory that only those who launch shot after shot can put up big-time point totals.

Just the same, he was rewarded with plenty of hardware.

Cooper, the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year, was also named to the Class AAA All-State team and the North-South All-Star roster.

“Guards had a hard time with him because he could get his way to the basket. Big guys would have a hard time guarding him because he could draw them from the basket,” Martin said. “He could separate himself from his defender. When he didn’t, he was heading to the free-throw line, where he shot 70 percent.

“He did a really good job of knowing his strengths and playing to his strengths and making his teammates better. That’s why we had some of the success we did this year. He got the most out of his skill.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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