BASKETBALL

Arizona basketball: 2014 commit Cooper realizes bone spurs will require surgery

Recruit deals with pain
2012-07-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-25T12:06:39Z Arizona basketball: 2014 commit Cooper realizes bone spurs will require surgeryBruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

LAS VEGAS - One of the reasons Eric Cooper opted for an extra year of high school basketball before playing for the Arizona Wildcats in 2014-15 was to experience a full season without injury.

But there's still no telling if he'll actually be able to do so.

Cooper, the 6-foot-3-inch former La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran guard who committed to UA in November 2010 along with incoming freshman Grant Jerrett, is playing through pain this summer with the Belmont Shore Gold because of bone spurs in his right foot.

Already, Cooper spent his early high school career at Lutheran suffering from a debilitating split kneecap and a stress fracture in his tibia.

Then, just after things started feeling better last season, he broke his finger in the high school playoffs.

And now this: bone spurs.

"Right now, besides that, I feel pretty good," Cooper said.

In other words, relatively it isn't so bad. Cooper can still play the game. In fact, he scored 19 points Thursday as Belmont Shore Gold nearly erased a double-digit deficit in a 67-65 loss to the Detroit Stars in the Fab 48 tournament at Bishop Gorman High School.

But Cooper said he sometimes needs over-the-counter painkillers to get through games and knows that the bone pain will not improve. Surgery is just a matter of time, and it will cost Cooper at least two months away from basketball.

That troubles his father and coach, former Wildcat Eric Cooper, who is moving along with his son from Lutheran to Long Beach St. Anthony next season. The elder Cooper said he isn't sure whether his son should have the surgery next month - and thus return just in time for the school season - or after the school season ends.

"If he has it next month, he comes back in October, but then he's out of shape at the beginning of the season," Cooper said.

Either way, though, there is still plenty of time before college. Cooper bought himself an extra year by reclassifying this spring: he will play for his father during the upcoming season at St. Anthony, then move to Brewster Academy in 2013-14.

"I think it made sense," Cooper said. "I'm just working on shooting and ballhandling, passing and just trying to get ready for college."

Cooper said he remains solid on his commitment to UA, although he still is not scheduled to arrive in Tucson for two more years. The Coopers also said UA coaches are supportive of the move to reclassify, and that UA coach Sean Miller has specifically asked to see improvement in Cooper's strength and shooting.

"He wants him to be a great shooter, not a good shooter, and he wants him to be as big and strong as he can become," the elder Cooper said. "He took 50,000 (practice) shots before last season, and once he comes back (if he undergoes surgery) maybe he does it again. He's going to be a great shooter."

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