Franklin Parish boys coach Lonnie Cooper will be inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 4 at the Embassy Suites in Baton Rouge.
"I was on my way home when I got the call," Cooper said. "I was surprised and I am honored. It is awesome. You really don't think about those types of things."
Cooper joins the likes of Bob Petit, Pete Maravich, Willis Reed, Bob Love, Robert Parish, Rudy Macklin, Joe Dumars, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, Ervin Johnson, Tommy Joe Eagles, Tim Floyd and Dale Brown.
"There have been so many good college basketball players in the state of Louisiana," Cooper said. "You just hope you were one of those in that bunch. I am fortunate to be a part of it and extremely grateful."
Cooper was a four-year starter and three-time All-Sun Belt performer at Louisiana Tech from 1995-99. As a senior, he earned first team All-Sun Belt honors and led the Bulldogs to the Sun Belt regular-season title in Richard's first season as head coach. That season, he also led the nation in free-throw percentage with a .921 clip.
Cooper averaged close to 30 points a game his senior year at McCall High in Tallulah. Cooper helped lead the Dragons to one state championship and three runner-up finishes.
"Playing at McCall prepared me for college," Cooper said. "And, of course, we had a great teacher in Coach (Mitchell) Riggs. He was one of the best to do it."
Following his career at Louisiana Tech, Cooper played professionally overseas for 11 seasons.
Cooper didn’t even think about ending his playing days when a sports hernia cut his season short in the European professional league with Al Riyadi in Lebenon in 2010. But when he came home for surgery and rehab, he made the toughest decision he had ever had to make — one he doesn’t regret today.
"I was thinking, what do I do now," Cooper said.
Cooper went back to what he loves - that being the game of basketball. He joined Keith Richard's staff at Louisiana-Monroe.
"Coach Richard was the one who recruited me at Louisiana Tech," Cooper said. "I fell in love with coaching."
Cooper then got the opportunity to join Michael Hunter’s staff at West Monroe High School in 2016.
Cooper's opportunity to take over at Franklin Parish came about after boys basketball coach Donzell West was relieved of his duties. Cooper's first game as Franklin Parish coach was an overtime win over Delhi Charter.
"I didn't have time to plan a game plan, so I basically told them to continue doing what they were doing and to grind it out," Cooper said. "We got up by 10 or 12 and they fought back and took the lead. It came down to a last second shot. Isaac got a steal, and I thought he was out of control so I was going to call time out. But the refs called a foul at that time so I didn't have to use it. We made two free throws with nine seconds remaining. We had a steal, but ended up traveling, so they had one more chance, but we got the stop. My first head coaching job was an overtime game. That was amazing. Delhi Charter has a really good team and wasn't expecting anything less from them."
The Hall of Fame display was originally located in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at LSU in Baton Rouge. In 2008, the display was moved to Louisiana's historical Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge where it contains plaques and mementos of persons elected, along with other historical basketball memorabilia.