Cooper joins exclusive group of athletes

Franklin Parish boys basketball coach Lonnie Cooper, left, his wife Andrell and son Drew pose with the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame plaque he received on May 4.(Submitted photo)

Editor’s Note:  This is the second in a series of two feature stories on this year’s inductee into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame and this year’s recipient of the LABC’s Mr. Louisiana Basketball award.  The 2019 inductee will be former Louisiana Tech University player and Franklin Parish High School basketball coach Lonnie Cooper.  Mr. Louisiana Basketball for 2019 is long-time AAU, college and youth coach Jim Champagne of Lafayette

Franklin Parish boys basketball coach Lonnie Cooper has never been about individual awards.

But even he had to take a breath after being inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame on May 4 at the Embassy Suites in Baton Rouge.

“I played with some really good guys, and there are other guys deserving of this award,” Cooper said. “But it was awesome.”

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. Everybody at school is congratulating me, I’ve seen it on the news, I’ve got my buddies calling me.  It’s like, huge. It’s funny,” he said.  “Now I go to the barber shop and it’s me the guys are comparing the young guys to.  They’ll say stuff like, ‘This young guy’s good, but I mean, this dude Lonnie’s in the Hall of Fame.’”

Cooper enjoyed 10 seasons as an international player in Finland, Milan, and beyond.  His McCall High teams went to four straight state championship games. But it’s what he did as a Tech Bulldog that earned him a spot in the state’s Hall.

He becomes the 15th Louisiana Tech player or coach, the second most of any other program in the state, to be inducted.  He joins former Bulldog greats Jackie Moreland, Cecil Crowley, Mike Green, Scotty Robertson, Billy Wiggins, Mike McConathy, Karl Malone, George Corley, Andy Russo, P.J. Brown, Randy White, Dave Simmons, Lanky Wells and Tommy Joe Eagles.

Cooper was a consensus Top 50 national prospect out of high school.  He chose Louisiana Tech to stay close to home.

“My mom saw every home game I ever played,” Cooper said.  “Four straight years.”

From 1995-99, Cooper was a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference, All-Louisiana and NABC All-District selection, and the Louisiana Player of the Year when Tech won the league title his senior season.

Cooper’s name is all over Tech’s record book: 1,451 points (14.0 average), 12th all-time at the end of his career; Most made three-pointers (219) when he finished his career; Highest free throw percentage in a single season at 92.1%, which led the nation in his senior year; Second-most career assists (523) and third-most steals (153) at the end of his career.

Cooper averaged 13.7 points and 5.44 assists in 1999, 17.0 points and 5.15 assists in 1998, 14.2 points and 5.11 assists in 1997, and 10.5 points and 4.38 assists in 1996 as a freshman.  He had a single game scoring high of 33 points.

Cooper joked that being inducted into the Hall of Fame may help his Patriots basketball program.

“Maybe I can get a 7-footer to enroll,” he said.

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