One of Wayne County’s best basketball players made his college decision official on Friday morning.
Jaden Cooper is headed to the Ivy League. He officially signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Columbia University next season.
“It’s such a blessing, and to able to sign something like this is very heartwarming. I’m very proud,” Cooper said.
Coach Marlon Seers, who is now at Amherst College, and current Columbia head coach Jim Engles reached out to Cooper and traveled to Goldsboro to watch Cooper play.
Cooper was drawn to Columbia not only for basketball but for how the Ivy League school can set him up for life after basketball.
“One thing that really stood out to me was when they asked me what I’m going to do when the ball stops bouncing,” Cooper said. “That was an eye-opener. So, it was more than just thinking about the next four years. It was thinking about 40 years.
“That’s really what got my attention.”
Cooper plans to major in biology with a pre-med track. After Cooper’s mother survived breast cancer, Cooper decided that he wanted to go into the medical field to help people.
“I want to become an oncologist.”
Cooper’s potential was apparent the first time he stepped onto the basketball court, and over the last four years, he morphed into one of the best basketball players in WCDS history.
During his sophomore and junior years he led the Chargers to appearances in the state championship game, and this season, the Chargers reached the state semi-finals.
Cooper was also named Coastal Plains Independent Conference player of the year. He averaged 17.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.
“Shoutout to my teammates and coaches that I’ve had,” Cooper said. “We just built a stronger and stronger program each and every year.
“I’m very excited for my little brother (Jordan Cooper), who is coming up behind me.”
Cooper said he had an incredible time in a Chargers’ jersey, and he made countless memories. But one moment that sticks out was making it to the state title game during his sophomore season.
“That was a big moment for all of us because at the time we were the underdogs and nobody believed in us, and we came together and did what we had to do,” Cooper said.
On the basketball court, Cooper’s best asset is his demeanor.
Bad shots do not rattle his psyche, and he has learned to stay focused when he is not playing his best. Cooper’s calm demeanor and killer instincts have led to much of his success during his prep career.
However, Cooper knows basketball ends — either after high school, college, or 10 years in the pros.
So, getting into Columbia was most important so he could receive a top-notch education because Cooper’s story is not all about basketball.
It is about a gifted young man who chose not to ride only his athleticism but match it with his mental ability.
“This was the goal, in middle school, believe it or not, I was wondering how I could get to an Ivy League school, and I guess God heard my prayers,” Cooper said. “He blessed me with this wonderful opportunity to play and get the best education possible.”