One of the biggest national stock-risers this spring has been Kaden Cooper of The Skill Factory (GA) and Team Trae Young (OK). Cooper was relatively unknown prior to April, but burst onto the national scene after stringing together strong performances during the first two live periods. Averaging 13.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game on the Adidas 3SSB circuit, the 6’6” guard has earned over 20 college offers and counting since last month, alone. Cooper is an athlete with a high motor who excels on both ends of the floor. He leverages his physical tools as a lockdown defender and possesses special leaping ability and instincts to swat shots at the rim. A high major prospect who will have numerous college options to choose from, the rising senior has also made strides as a secondary playmaker and long range shooter.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Cooper talked about modeling his game after Mikal Bridges and Dennis Rodman, being entrusted as a leader and growing in that role with Team Trae Young, learning what it meant to truly play hard, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2023 prospect Kaden Cooper, from Ada, Oklahoma:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today?
Kaden Cooper: I mean, it's really been a journey — an interesting journey for me, anyone who's in my circle. I mean, I basically started here in Oklahoma. I was unrecognized for basically my whole life and it really just developed a chip on my shoulder and I recently moved to Atlanta and I joined The Skill Factory and they just pushed me and I'm thankful for that. Yeah, I mean it's just been great. I've been getting better everyday, learning new things every game, pushing my teammates. It's been good.
PI: Any other athletes in the family?
KC: My dad was an All-American in basketball. My brother was actually one of the best in our state for football when he was in high school so he was a football player. I did play football, but that wasn't my path. My sister played basketball a little bit. She's more on the smart side. She's in law school and my mom was an all-state defender when she was in high school. So I mean the athletic genes, they run through the family. Now we don’t know where I get my height from 'cause I mean there's not that many people in my family that are 6’5”, 6’6”, so yeah.
PI: Besides football, did you play any other sports growing up?
KC: Yeah, I played football, basketball, and baseball. I recently had to give up baseball when I decided to join TSF. I think baseball and basketball were always close for like which one I loved more, but basketball is just different like I just fell in love with it and so I had to do what's best for me.
PI: When did you primarily start to focus on basketball?
KC: I think once I got to TSF, they made me realize that what I'm used to isn't what's gonna get me to where I want to be, and so they really established a crazy work ethic in me that I have. I can't get rid of it and so it turned me into a gym rat. I basically just take pride in anything I do on the court, any time I step on the court, like my competitiveness is through the roof and so that's when it all started.
PI: For those who aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
KC: My play style, I mean I like to go fast like any team I'm on. If I'm playing point or if I'm on the wing, I want the point guard to get the ball out and spread the floor, kick up, and find open passes. When I get the ball out, I'm spreading the floor seeing what plays to make if I could score, but mainly my strengths are just getting in open court, finishing above the rim. In my opinion, I feel like I'm one of the best defenders in my class. I take a lot of pride on defense. I feel like without defense you can't win. You have to have guys that are bought in and that want to play both ends and that's how you become successful. Another strength is I can shoot it. I don't have a problem shooting it and my confidence is there and that's one of the things that I'm working on in my game right now, mainly.
PI: Who do you model your game after or study on film?
KC: Oh yeah, I watch a lot of Mikal Bridges. Mikal’s like that quiet guy, you don't really notice him, but like at the end of the day he's gonna finish with a double-double, four assists. He's gonna fill up the stat sheet and he takes pride on defense. He guards point guards. He guards basically almost one-through-five, one-through-four and so that's one thing I like about him. Another person I like… it's an old one, but I'm a huge Dennis Rodman fan. I feel like Dennis’ energy and the way he could just get people out of their game is just crazy. He was good because he didn't need the ball to be good. He was a Hall of Famer just from rebounds and being the best hustle player there was at his size. I like him a lot.
PI: What are your current measurements?
KC: I'm gonna be honest, I'm a legit 6’5” but I put 6’6” on a lot of stuff because I feel like 6’6” look better. I can pass with 6’6”. I don't know my wingspan. I weigh about 190 [pounds]. Yeah, I think that's it.
PI: What type of leader are you?
KC: I actually wanted to be a “leader” on a lot of teams that I was on and it was always like my coach didn't really trust me to take that role, but I feel like on the team I'm on now, I'm the leader. I'm talking on defense, helping my teammates out, picking them up when they're down, just all the small stuff that some people might not know how to do, so I help them out.
PI: Describe your experience with Team Trae Young.
KC: Last year was my first time on the circuit so I enjoyed it, but I was still new to everything going on like the different play styles, but I feel like this year I mean, I love it. They treat me like family. All the coaches are close. The coaches are closer to teammates. All of my teammates get along. I get along with them and it's just like a good environment to be around. Everybody is having fun with hoops and we're just learning together and becoming a stronger team day by day.
PI: Any particular players you have enjoyed playing with?
KC: I mean, I really like playing with all my teammates. I can't really single out anybody like that. We all play different roles on the court and we work every practice everyday to just get better at those roles so we could be a stronger team. So there's really not one person I like to play with, 'cause I mean all my teammates are great.
PI: What is your training regimen?
KC: I start off with of course form shots. You gotta do form shots and then might get some Mikan in and then I just go through my ball handling and then I'll get into my shooting last and then you get free throws in between reps. Make shots in a row. You do five in the wing, five in the corner, and then five on the top of the key.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player?
KC: Yeah, I wanna win a championship on a high school team. That's a goal I have. And I also want to win Gatorade Player of the Year. I feel like that's a big accomplishment, but I feel like I could definitely reach that.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?
KC: In my career, I’d definitely say Cason Wallace. Playing against him is just crazy. Like I mean, he can do it all. He's a three-level scorer and he's so strong. It's just unstoppable. It's like playing against a grown man.
PI: Do you see similarities between your game and his game?
KC: I mean, yeah. Some people say differently. Some people say he's a lockdown defender. Some people just say he's a really good defender. Personally, I think he's a lockdown defender. I don't think I'm there yet but I wanna get there. Right now, he has a better offensive game than I do, so I wouldn't say we're too alike but on the defensive end, most definitely.
PI: How do you see your role at the next level?
KC: I'm ready for the next level. I see myself playing my first year at the next level. I don't really have too big of a problem adjusting to new environments. I'm not really worried about playing against older people. I mean if we hoop, then we hoopin, but I think I'll definitely be successful at the next level.
PI: Congratulations on the numerous high major offers in the last month — who have you been hearing from the most, lately?
KC: I'd definitely say Kansas, Gonzaga, and Xavier.
PI: Did you have a dream school growing up?
KC: Yeah, I was a big Michael Jordan fan. I mean I still am, but when I was young, I was crazy, I always used to watch his videos [and] his movies so I was a UNC fan growing up. I always wanted to go to UNC. That was a big thing for me.
PI: There are a lot more post-grad options available these days with G League Ignite, OTE, and NBL, among others. Have you and your family done much research into those opportunities?
KC: We've heard that they're interested, but what I'm trying to do, I don't want to skip school. I want to go to college. Personally, I just want that experience and I feel like that’s a big part of my life — having that college experience and playing against that type of competition. I've never really found interest in going pro early. That's not something I plan on doing.
PI: What will ultimately be your deciding factors when making your choice?
KC: It's real simple for me. It's just feel. Like I'm a person that just kind of goes by foot so it's like whatever feels the best, you know? That's what I'm gonna choose and I feel like God gotta path for me so He’ll make it clear what school I should go to.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
KC: Man, I listen to music like no other so yeah, I'm gonna say music and watch movies. I could sit and watch movies for a long time.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
KC: Oh, NBA YoungBoy.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
KC: I'm gonna need my phone and my charger. My inhaler 'cause I can never breathe (laughs). I know that island will have some type of air in it. I'm gonna bring my mom. That's gonna be it. Me and my mom gon’ have to rock it out.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
KC: Probably #bouncy. That's what I'm really just known for. I mean I do other things, but when people walk up to me, they're like…I mean, I hear it all, “you look bouncy. I heard you be dunking on people. You can't dunk on me.” I mean it just goes on (laughs).
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
KC: Probably a new phone (laughs). My phone is not really old, but I got an 8 Plus. I need a new phone, but I don’t think my mom would let me spend [money] on it.
PI: Maybe there is an NIL opportunity here?
KC: Right, now that would be lit. I need that one (laughs).
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
KC: I don't know why, but I feel like I'd probably be a writer. I don't really enjoy school, but school is something that you gotta do to be able to hoop. But like the only thing that I really like and enjoy when I'm in school is writing, so I feel like I would be a good writer.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
KC: “Always play at 110%.” When I first heard that, I understood it, but I didn't really comprehend that I wasn't doing it all the time. I don't know, there was just something in my head that always told me I was playing as hard as possible, but like anybody that watched my game, they could clearly tell that I wasn't playing hard. When I got to TSF, that's when it one day just clicked in my head and I started averaging more rebounds, points, assists, steals, and I was like “this is what they mean.” I mean, I skyrocketed ever since.
PI: Who’s someone you really look up to?
KC: I look up to my dad. My dad, he made it. He made it really far in basketball and I mean, he says now that I'm better than him. But he's still done so many things. He has so many achievements and accomplishments. I wanna get there, but more.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
KC: Smacking. I can't stand it. It's like smacking or if I can hear you chewing. So like if we sit at a table together and we’re eating food and your mouth all open and you're smacking, it's gonna irritate me 'cause like I'm trying to enjoy my food but like you smacking or if I can like hear you chewing. I don't know. It just does something. It’s irritating.
PI: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
KC: I'm an introvert. I don't know. I’d rather stay in the house, lay down, watch a movie than go out and do anything. I don't know. When I'm around people too much, I start getting irritated.
PI: Talk about a time or story in your life that you feel has really shaped who you are today.
KC: Probably the Trae Young camp. That was when I really realized I could potentially make it to the next level, like playing on the highest level, 'cause that was originally when I blew up. After that camp, my confidence jumped and I hadn't had that confidence in a long time 'cause my freshman year of high school was really rough, so that really opened my mind up some more.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
KC: I mean success is really just accomplishing everything that you set for yourself. Success doesn't really have a limit. Whatever your plans are in life, long term or short term, if you complete all those goals, then you're successful. Like if you want to be a billionaire and you become a billionaire, then you're successful. If you just wanna make it out of the town that you grew up in, then you're successful. It's really just anything you wanted to do.
PI: Besides the NBA, where do you see yourself in five years?
KC: Probably being a real estate agent. Yeah, I'm a pretty good businessman. I could sell stuff and I feel like being a real estate agent is simple. You gotta learn your ways around it, but after that it’s smooth, make some good money. So, yeah.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
KC: Caring, outgoing, thoughtful, and aggressive.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
KC: I wanna be remembered as the guy that basically just cared about his team like at all times whether they were losing or winning. Basically just the guy that picks everybody up when they are down, keeps the team motivated, keeps their energy up. Not necessarily like the nice guy, but just basically the leader. I want to be known as the leader. If somebody was to walk up to one of my coaches and be like “what was Kaden Cooper like when he was on your team?” He’d be like, “oh that's easy. He was a leader. He got everybody in their place. He always made sure the next guy remembered what he's supposed to do.”