Maroons' Cooper bypasses SWIC, picks Vincennes

News-DemocratApril 15, 2014 

— Belleville West senior Jesheon Cooper said she wasn't interested when perennial NJCAA Division I basketball power Vincennes (Ind.) University contacted her earlier this year.

Then the 6-foot-5 Cooper had second thoughts.

"I wasn't interested because it was too close to home. I wanted to get away," Cooper said. "But then I saw the facilities, which are more like an NCAA Division II school. It's really nice and I met the coaches and the players. It's away from home but after being there, it felt like home.''

After signing with the Trailblazers recently, home will be in Indiana the next two years for Cooper.

A Class 3A-4A honorable mention all-area selection this past season, Cooper also received interest from Daytona (Fla.) College, State Fair (Mo.), Independence (Mo.) College and Belleville's own Southwestern Illinois College.

"I have a very good friend (Erika) McCaster who is playing at SWIC and she tried to get me to commit there. It's Belleville and again, I want to get away,'' Cooper said.

One of the tallest players in the history of the Southwestern Conference, Cooper broke into the lineup late in her sophomore season and never looked back. This past year, Cooper average 11 points, eight rebounds and finished her senior year with 91 blocked shots.

"Jesehon allowed us to pressure the basketball because she was back in the post,'' Maroons coach Clayton Fisher said. "She's showed good improvement over the last three years. She needs to continue to get stronger and she needs to be develop that 10- to 12-foot jumper.

"But at this stage of Jesheon's career, a place like Vincennes is where she needs to be. It's a high level junior college program and if she works hard and continues to improve, she'll have a chance to move on and play two more years at an NCAA Division I or II level.''

Cooper said she thinks she'll have the opportunity to make an immediate impact at Vincennes. The Trailblazers were sophomore-heavy in the front court during the 2013-14 season.

"They graduate their post player who I think averaged right around 20 points a game. So the opportunity for me to play a lot is there,'' Cooper said. "The coaching staff is bringing in a couple of guards from Kansas, I think, who are supposed to be very good players so I'm looking forward to playing the next two years.

"I know I've got to be able to step out and hit the 12 to 15-foot jumper and I've got to be able to handle the basketball better. But I plan to improve in both of those areas."

Cooper said she will major in journalism at Vincennes.

Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or dcriddle@bnd.com

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