Before he ever played a varsity game, Cooper Flagg was the talk of Maine high school basketball. In what almost certainly will be his only season playing in Maine, the freshman surpassed the hype and stamped himself as one of the state’s best ever.
Flagg displayed a wide range of skills while leading Nokomis to a 21-1 record and the Class A championship – the school’s first boys’ basketball state title. Off the court, he showed an unflappable ability to handle unprecedented statewide media attention at just 15 years old. Flagg is the clear choice as the 2022 Varsity Maine boys’ basketball Player of the Year.
“All the attention he got at that young of an age, it was really impressive how well he handled it,” said Nokomis Coach Earl Anderson.
At 6-foot-8, Flagg produced a bevy of highlight-reel dunks. But it is his all-around game, his ability to handle the ball, set up teammates and his defensive awareness that set him apart. He averaged 20.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.7 steals, 3.7 blocks and made 62 percent of his shots.
“Mentally, I matured a lot throughout the season,” Flagg said, “just working on not getting upset with the referees and realizing time and score and the type of things that you can only get through experience.”
Since the high school season ended, the swirl of excitement around Flagg has increased.
He and his twin brother, Ace, announced they would transfer to Montverde Academy, a private school in Florida that has won six of the last 10 national high school basketball championships. Seven Montverde alums were selected in the 2021 NBA Draft, including No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham.
The Flaggs’ Maine United AAU team, coached by former Mountain Valley legend Andy Bedard and their mother, former UMaine player Kelly (Bowman) Flagg, was invited to join the Nike-sponsored Elite Youth Basketball League.
Cooper Flagg was invited to the USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp, one of the first times he had competed up in age against elite players.
“Playing the top guys in the junior class, who are going to be seniors and almost going to college, they’re much more physically built and ready than you are. It’s more of a reminder that you have work to do to progress. “
After impressive early April performances with Maine United, Flagg has received scholarship offers from Iowa and UCLA.
Flagg’s older brother, Hunter, also played for Nokomis this season as a senior. The team’s only loss, to Brewer early in the season, was avenged later in the regular season, then again in the Class A North final in front of a packed Augusta Civic Center, 68-58, as Flagg scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half.
“The moment that stood out for me was after the Northern Maine championship and being in the locker room and celebrating and everyone was hugging and it was really great,” Flagg said. “I don’t really know why, but that meant more to us. We kind of had something against Brewer in our heads. “
Nokomis finished strong, beating Falmouth, 43-27, at a nearly sold-out Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Flagg knew it would probably be his last game in Maine. The family had already applied for the twins’ acceptance to Montverde.
He was the dominant presence at both ends of the court. His length, anticipation and ability to guard Falmouth’s perimeter threats and still recover to be a presence in the paint flustered and frustrated the Navigators. When his first few outside shots did not drop, Flagg went to work inside and finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
“He’s so good. It’s his athleticism, “said Falmouth Coach Dave Halligan after the game. “He can guard on the perimeter. He can guard inside. He’s one of those generational players who comes along just once in a very seldom. “
Boys’ basketball: 2022 Varsity Maine All-State team