Helping to lead the Lockerby Vikings to a OFSAA AA consolation championship in Sault Ste. Marie, Samantha Cooper closed out her illustrious high school basketball career last November.
Honoured as the House of Kin Female High School Athlete of the Year a second straight time earlier this month, Cooper must have felt, once again, a tinge of emotion, realizing her time as a Vike was coming to an end.
Thankfully, it’s more than offset by the anticipation of what lies ahead.
“I’m still as excited about it as I was when I made the decision back then,” said Cooper.
It was late last fall when the 6-foot-2 all-sport talent decided upon her post-secondary fate, accepting a scholarship to hook up with the Fairfield University Stags in Connecticut.
Just off I-95 on the northern shoreline of the Long Island sound, Fairfield is roughly 60 miles from New York City and a long, long way from Northern Ontario.
“It’s still a little nerve-racking to know that I’m going so far away, but I still feel confident in my decision,” Cooper said.
A family visit to Buffalo to watch the team play not long after provided a sense of reassurance for a young woman who simply oozes confidence more often than not on the local sporting scene.
“Watching the level of play made me feel a lot more comfortable,” she said.
“I feel that I can fit in at that level and help them out.”
That sense of “fitting” in was front and centre with Cooper throughout the process that ultimately led to the decision in favour of Fairfield.
“I was looking for a bit of a smaller campus,” she said. “And a team atmosphere. When I went to visit, they had a huge team barbecue and everyone got together. I got to meet everyone.”
A member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC), the Fairfield women’s basketball team finished third in a field of 10 teams in 2012-2013, with the addition of Quinnipiac not making things any easier for the Stags next year.
Looking to make an immediate impact, Cooper will draw on her experience that extends well beyond the Sudbury District Secondary Schools Athletic Association boundaries.
A bright, articulate student dating back to her days at St. Francis Catholic Elementary School, Cooper knows enough to take some positives away from every potential opportunity.
“Playing high school helped me develop my leadership skills, especially after Tiye (Traore) left,” Cooper said.
“For two years, it was kind of my role to fill. It’s always good to be in those situations where everyone is relying on you for the final shot.”
Meanwhile, Cooper continues to work on her game. She said she’s working out a lot with Aaron Sidenberg, with “lots of lifting and agility, getting stronger,” she said.
“Basketball-wise, I’m working on my pull-up jump shots and finishing around bigger, taller people.”
Randy Pascal is the founder of SudburySports.com and a contributing sports writer for Northern Life.