TW - OSU's center makes return to Texas Tech

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OP 9000

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OSU's center makes return to Texas Tech

By JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
1/28/2006


Former high school teammates planned on joining Red Raiders.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Kenny Cooper and Terry Martin hatched a plan.

When they were basketball teammates at Richwood High School in Monroe, La., they had such good chemistry that they pledged to attend the same college.

"We were going to be a package deal," Martin said.

"We played so good together," Cooper said. "We won a state championship, so we wanted to stay together and just keep on building together, two people as one, because we really connected as one on the court."

Both shared an interest in Texas Tech. Martin signed with the Red Raiders. Cooper committed to Tech, but recanted and signed with Oklahoma State.

Martin respected his buddy's decision. Said Martin, "He's got to do what's best for him."

As it turns out, Texas Tech netted zero players from the package deal. Martin played in 14 games (including eight starts) and averaged 7.4 points before deciding to transfer. Among reasons for his departure was a desire to be closer to home. He enrolled at LSU and will be eligible in 2007.

In hindsight, Cooper is glad he didn't stick with his Texas Tech commitment because he would have been alone in Lubbock without
his former tag-team partner. And that wouldn't have been good. "No good at all," he said.

Cooper will face his almost-went-there school for the first time Saturday, when OSU plays a road game against Texas Tech.

The 6-foot-10 freshman center started six consecutive games during a recent stretch in which the Cowboys' depth was restricted by injuries. The string of starts ended Monday, but coach Eddie Sutton said Cooper "has got to play some. He's part of the future. He's got to get as much experience as he can this year so that next year (he can contribute more)."

Cooper, turned 18 on Dec. 26, is averaging 2.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in 10.2 minutes of court time per game.

"I still want to be so much better than what I am, but I have gotten better since I came here," Cooper said, complimenting OSU's coaches and support staff.

During a Thursday telephone interview, Martin predicted a bright future for his old high school chum. Cooper has the body and work ethic to play for pay someday, according to Martin.

"He's the hardest worker I've ever seen," Martin said, adding that Cooper sometimes jogged three miles from school to home.

"He never gives up. When he is down, he works his butt off."

Martin remembers that Cooper wasn't a very impressive player as a freshman or sophomore. "But he was a beast as a junior and senior."

Cooper said one of the reasons he chose not to go to Texas Tech with Martin is because of unfinished family business. Cooper's brother, Roy Candley, is a former OSU player whose career was sabotaged by weight problems. Candley urged Cooper to become a Cowboy.

"My brother, when he was playing here, he wanted to make a good impression and he did at first," Cooper said. "But then he started slumping down, so I want to just finish off the good that he had."

Plus, Stillwater was home. Cooper lived there a few years before attending high school in Louisiana.

"I knew how Stillwater was," he said. "Stillwater is like a big family and I knew this would kind of be a good situation for me because I could play for another Hall of Fame coach, so I decided to come here because I am familiar with this place."

Though Cooper left his family to attend college, he has a support system in Stillwater. Mount Zion Baptist Church pastor and former OSU football assistant coach Calvin Miller and his wife, Dee, look out for the kid.

"We are real close," Cooper said. "They have been like a father and mother to me."

Cooper attends church services at Mount Zion and and said he enjoys reading the Bible. As long as he remains on the roster, perhaps the Cowboys have a prayer.

"I just try to stay spiritual because you can't do anything without God," he said. "You've got to keep God in your heart in everything you do. My mom always said always keep God first and everybody I have been around is real spiritual and always says keep God first in everything you do and every time you get hyped, you give God some praise and he will give you some more. Don't ever get the big head or anything. Always keep God first in everything you do. So that's what I try to do."

http://www.tulsaworld.com/SportsStory.asp?ID=060128_Sp_B1_OSUsc2765
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Epperley28

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Nov 11, 2005
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He sounds like a great kid. I wonder if he's got any more height left in him. Could you imagine if he got two more inches? He'd be Shaq-sized by his senior season!
 
Jan 17, 2006
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He shows flashes of brilliance at times on the court, looks like he just needs some maturity. He's often out of position, and gets beat on D all the time. He'll gain these things in due time, Eddie's system thrives on a good big man and once Cooper catches on the what Eddie and Coach Williams tell him, he'll be great, I just can't wait to see it.