Steady as she goes...it's not just a Raconteurs jam, but rather the modus operandi for Alabama's senior guard Rodney Cooper as he finishes a distinguished career with the Tide. After joining the Alabama program as a high-scoring firecracker of a guard, the senior's game has matured into the type of solid, all-around performance he exhibited in the Tide's up-and-down '14-'15 season.
Neither flashy nor particularly explosive in his evolved incarnation, the 6'6", 218 pound senior out of the aptly named Hurtsboro, AL has become (along with fellow senior Levi Randolph) the backbone of an Alabama team that looked good at times while faltering at others. A routine contributor and workhorse out of Russell County High School, Cooper will be remembered as one of the glimmers of hope in one of Bama's darker basketball hours.
After joining the Tide and head coach Anthony Grant during the 2011-2012 season, there is little doubt that Cooper's game has evolved. Known as a hot-shot All-State caliber scorer out of high school who fancied himself an offensive juggernaut, under Grant's tutelage, the guard developed his rebounding and defensive skills to become a more whole player during his time at the Capstone.
Though Alabama has struggled at times this season, one can't place the blame at Cooper's feet. Through 31 games played, Cooper has averaged 31.5 minutes per game. He's made the most of his opportunity for heavy playing time as a senior, averaging 3.7 rebounds per game, 1.6 assists per game and 10.5 points per game for the struggling Tide.
While some would characterize Cooper's senior campaign as his most complete performance in crimson, his emergence has not come as a surprise after several years as a steady fixture in the Tide's line-up. As a junior in 2013-2014, Cooper started 23 of the 32 games in which he participated, leading the Tide in rebounds (4.9 per game) while averaging 7.5 points per game. During the season, he also led the team in assists in seven different games, second most on the team.
During the 2012-2013 season, the then-sophomore had a large role for the Tide, starting 34 of the 35 games in which he saw action. In probably his most complete season at Alabama, Cooper led the team in rebounds (4.5 per game) as well as offensive rebounds (1.9 per game). He also finished second on the team in field goals made (136) and was third in scoring (10.2 points per game), field goal attempts (339) and double-figure scoring games (20). In regard to the latter, Cooper actually reached double-figures in 11 of his 18 SEC games, displaying a penchant for higher-level performances in league play. Cooper was named to the 2K Sports Classic All-Tournament first-team after his performance against Villanova, in which he scored 17 points while hitting 7-of-10 field goals.
As a freshman, Cooper was thrown into the fray early, starting 14 games and playing in 31 of 33. During his initial campaign, he averaged 5.3 points per game while playing 17.4 minutes per game. Cooper was at his best in high stakes road games, as he averaged 8.8 points per game in SEC road contests in his freshman year. His shining moment of that year came in the Tide's road contest with LSU, in which Cooper scored 28 points in a 10-of-19 shooting performance. Cooper also drew the league's eye academically, as he was named to the SEC's First Year Academic Honor Roll following his freshman year.
The 3-star recruit out of Russell County High School entered the Bama program ranked as the #35 shooting guard available in 2010-2011 recruiting cycle. Highly lauded as a prep player, Cooper was a Parade First Team All-American in his senior season, and was also an Alabama Sports Writers' Association First Team All-State and "Super 5" designee.
Cooper's draft status remains a little undefined, as the Marketing major is currently listed as the 117th overall recruit by nbadraftexpress.com. If Cooper decides to pursue a professional career, his first affiliation will likely be as a member of a D-League or European league roster.
Despite the ups and downs of the Crimson Tide basketball program in Cooper's time in Tuscaloosa, fans will remember him as a steady contributor and gritty leader who changed his game to meet the needs of the program. Like fellow senior Randolph, Cooper has been as reliable as the rain in April, and his tenacity and skill has favored heavily into Bama's measured success over the last four years.
Click here for a nice profile on Cooper, complete with a few highlight clips.