Cooper Flagg is your typical teenager in many ways, but his exploits on the basketball court are well beyond the norm.
Hailing from Newport, Maine, the 15-year-old Flagg is good at a lot of things: fishing, hunting, and spirited cornhole games. He just finished driver’s education and is “really good” behind the wheel, according to his mother.
Basketball, though, is where Flagg shines brightest. ESPN ranks him the No. 3 overall high school player in the Class of 2025, and Flagg just made the USA Basketball Under-17 national team.
“I just think of myself as a regular kid, not trying to do too much and just live my life the best I can,” Flagg said. “The last year has been really fun and uplifting … it’s all love from everyone in Maine.”
The 6-foot-8-inch Flagg always stood out on the basketball court, but over the past year his profile exploded. That’s because the evaluation process for basketball prospects begins in earnest during the high school freshman year, according to Adam Finkelstein, director of scouting at 247 Sports and college basketball insider at CBS Sports.
“I prefer to wait as long as possible to rank young players,” Finkelstein said. “Having said that, I think it’s pretty well-established that there are four players in that class that have managed to distinguish themselves thus far. It’s him, Cameron Boozer, Koa Peat, and Bryson Tiller.”
Flanked by his twin brother, Ace, and older brother, Hunter, a senior, Flagg dominated Maine high school hoops as a freshman, leading the Nokomis Regional High School team to its first state championship this past winter.
Save for a tight loss in the second game of the season — which his team later avenged in the Maine Class A North final — Flagg led his team to 20 wins, capping the season by scoring 22 of his team’s 43 points and hauling in 16 rebounds in a low-scoring state championship battle.
“Winning the state championship was something that was really important to us, my dream growing up,” Flagg said. “The community was there for us all the time, and it was a thrill to go out and perform for them.”
His profile exploded on the national scale as the honors — and the offers — started to roll in.
Shortly after the high school season ended, Flagg picked up the state’s Gatorade Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year award, the first freshman to win it in the state. ESPN ranked Flagg the No. 3 overall player in his class, and powerhouses such as Duke, UCLA, and Michigan offered him scholarships following strong performances with his Maine United AAU team.
Flagg and Maine United dominated in the middle school MADE Hoops circuit. That got Maine United on the Nike circuit, the top amateur league, this spring. It was 7-1 through late June, losing only to a team that had the twin sons of former NBA veteran Carlos Boozer, who are ranked Nos. 1 and 24 in the Class of 2025.
“People knew he was good, but he’s taken it to another level,” said Maine United coach Andy Bedard. “He’s giving nationally ranked kids the business, working them. With that came the confidence, and that drive propelled him.”
According to Sean Ford, USA Basketball men’s national team director, the national program caught wind of Flagg through former Celtic Brian Scalabrine. Flagg had been invited to play in Scalabrine’s high-level pickup games in Boston, and the two formed a bond. Scalabrine was in attendance at Nokomis’s state championship victory.
After an impressive showing at a USA Basketball minicamp in April, Flagg earned a spot on the USA Basketball U17 team and a trip to the FIBA U17 World Cup in Spain, which runs through Sunday, after a strong performance at a five-day training camp at the US Olympic & Paralympic center in Colorado Springs.
“I’m telling you, there were a lot of really good players who weren’t selected as a finalist, and he’s done some things to separate himself,” Ford said. “He’s really coachable and constantly trying to learn and get better.”
Through Team USA’s first three games at the U17 World Cup, all wins, Flagg is averaging 8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.7 blocks and 1.3 steals in a little less than 17 minutes per game. The rebounding and block numbers rank in the top eight of the tournament, which began the Round of 16 on Wednesday.
Come fall, both Cooper and Ace (who is 6-7) will attend Montverde Academy near Orlando. Montverde’s alumni include top-five NBA picks Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, Cade Cunningham, and Joel Embiid.
“Coming from Maine, you don’t see this,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director and an East Boston native. “He’s got the complete package right now that he needs to continue to grow, develop, and improve.”
Does the NBA cross his mind?
“That’s the end goal, one of my biggest dreams,” Flagg said. “But I just take things day by day, just constantly trying to get better.”