Eric Cooper Jr is a 190cm guard that was born in Ontario, California and also lived in Bradenton, Florida that played his rookie season in Germany for pro A team Bayer Giants Leverkusen averaging 5,2ppg, 1,5rpg and 1,0apg. He scored 10 points in a win over Rostock and 12 points in a win over Nurnberg He began his college career at the The University of Nevada (NCAA) in 2014 and played two seasons there. In his first season there he played 30 games averaging 7.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.4apg, FGP: 36.5%, 3PT: 23.9%, FT: 78.2% and in his second season played 37 games averaging 9.5ppg, 2.1rpg, FGP: 39.9%, 3PT: 31.4%, FT: 81.6%. He finished his NCAA career at California school Pepperdine playing 19 games averaging 13.2ppg, 1.8rpg, 1.3apg, FGP: 53.0%, 3PT: 35.7%, FT: 85.7% and as a senior played 34 games averaging 10.7ppg, 2.6rpg, FGP: 36.8%, 3PT: 41.8%, FT: 81.0%. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball during his time in Germany.
Eric thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Congrats on signing with German Pro A team Bayer Giants Leverkusen. You were born in Hamburg, Germany and what do you know in general about the country Germany and it’s basketball?
I was actually born in Amberg, Germany. Many people don’t know where that is and everybody keeps saying Hamburg, but it’s Amberg. And I know very little I wasn’t here in the country that long. My Dad did tell me a little about the times he did play in Germany while he was playing professionally.
Have you had any friends, ex teammates or opponents that have made their way to Germany to play professional ball?
I actually have my teammate/roommate from last year that is in the same league as me right now. Darnell Dunn. He’s about an hour away from me in Gelsenkirchen. We’ll be playing each other first in November and then last in April. And also playing in the top Euro cup division my high school teammate Grant Jerrett is out here playing for a team in Germany.
What were the main reasons for you joining the Bayer Giants Leverkusen? What was the main deciding factor that made you choose to start your professional career with them?
The main reason for starting here was the fit. I think the situation, the system, and the people all fit me. My agent Mike Baron was the one who did all the research and he felt that this was the place for me. He also lives close by so he can mentor me in my first year.
Your new basketball coach Hansi Gnad is a German basketball legend having won the 1993 European championships with Germany. What will it mean playing for him?
Hansi has been great to be around. You can tell he’s been a champion and knows what he’s talking about. It’s a pleasure just being able to play and learn under a coach with a high pedigree such as him.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 190cm combo guard that has a very nice versatile game. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
If I had to compare to somebody In the NBA I would say a CJ McCollum from Portland type or a George Hill type combo guard.
You are a combo guard but how comfortable are you at the point and what is your biggest strength at that position?
I played point guard my freshman year of college so I have some experience playing the position. I think I bring scoring and smart instincts to the position. I can make plays in the open court and make passes to teammates, but also keep my shooting ability.
You’re a guy that knows how to score the ball and can shoot the three very well. What other strengths does your game encompass and will be on display this season?
This season I would like to show my passing skills and a little bit more rebounding as well to either stop possessions from the other team and start ours or continue ours after a missed shot.
You improved your three point accuracy in each season in the NCAA. How confident are you that you will be able to make continued strides with your shooting as you start in the pro ranks?
I think I’ll be able to shoot it very well in the pro ranks. I improved every year due to reps and hard work and I’ll continue that going into the pro ranks. Also having confidence in your work is big, it can help go a long way.
You’re a player that can fill the stat sheet at ease, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn’t always get noticed right away on the court?
I think defensively I’m more solid than I get credit for. I know usually where to be have the instincts to make plays on that end, but I don’t think it’s recognized at all
On what things have you been working on most on your game to help keep improving?
I’ve been working on more off the dribble shots and dribbling. To make sure I can score whenever they take away my 3 point shot. So far I think it’s been going well.
You won two state high school titles with Lutheran High School in La Verne, California and then played a post graduate at the well known IMG academy in Florida which recently produced NBA players Dwight Powell and Jonathan Isaac. How important was this extra year for your development as a player and person in Florida?
It helped me mature physically and mentally. The facility there is top notch and everything there is high level. It also allowed me to live in a place not close to home so mentally I had to stay locked in and focus and be aware while I was away from home.
You began your NCAA career at Nevada (NCAA) playing two seasons averaging 7.2ppg and 9,5ppg. You then left to go to Pepperdine. Why did you feel that you wouldn’t develop further there as a player?
I just felt in order for me to sort of expand myself individually a change of scenery was needed. I really enjoyed my time at Nevada under the 2 different coaches that I had there. I learned a lot from those experiences and took them to the next place that I went to.
What memories do you have of guard Marqueze Coleman who was your teammate there and played in Germany a few years ago. Was the healthy competition one there that helped you grow in the time that you were there?
Marqueze and I have known each other since we were young and my time there was spent with him as a guy who I could talk to and ask him for advice. Also to help me adjust to the college life. Basketball wise he pushed me and we had competition that made me better and him better as well. So yes I would say we had healthy competition.
What did it mean playing against UNLV? You had some good games against them, but always came up short. What kind of a rivalry do these two schools have?
I always loved playing against UNLV. You have that extra motivation to beat them. The rivalry is pretty crazy. It’s like any other rivalry in college basketball. It’s all about the bringing rights. Unfortunately we would come up short the most of the time that I was there, but we did win a few times as well. Marqueze’s game winner my freshmen year was crazy. That was probably my best game up to that point in my freshman campaign.
You finished at Pepperdine. How tough was your junior season having to fight through injuries? You had some good games that season?
My Junior year I was ready to start off with a bang. Unfortunately I got hurt before the season began in a scrimmage against Cal State Northridge. I had to miss the first 9 games of my Junior year with a shoulder injury. When I came back I played well but I think if I was healthy I could’ve played even better. I had to play with a big bulky brace on my shoulder and it was a little bit of an adjustment, but overall I felt proud with what I was able to do hurt. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish the season and had to get surgery but it was necessary for my health going into my Senior year.
What does it mean to you when you play very well scoring 19 points against top program Gonzaga, but lose by 30 points. Are there any positives that one dares can take from their own performance despite losing like that?
There isn’t really much you can take out of that type of game. When they are that good of a team you just try to play hard and make the best of it. I think that’s what I can say is a positive about that type of game. I played hard and tried to make the best of the game even when being down by 30.
How did head coach Lorenzo Romar give you the last push and help you be groomed and best prepared for a professional basketball career?
Lorenzo Romar helped me with my effort, efficiency, and attention to detail. He wants you to play hard and play the way that you know how to play. He doesn’t want you doing things that you can’t do or aren’t good at. He’s going to put you in the right position and get the best effort out of you or you won’t play. Professionally you have to do a lot of these same things or you won’t play.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Colbey Ross?
Surprisingly me and Colb were talking and we couldn’t remember a score or specific time playing each other in one’s. I think we’re going to have to say it’s a tie for now. I might have to come back to Pepp after the season and give an update.
Who was the toughest opponent that you played in the NCAA that is in the NBA or in Europe now
There’s a few that I’ve played against that had given my teams problems that are in the NBA. The best I might have to say was either Rui Hachimura or Fred Van Vleet.
Please list your five best teammates of all-time?
Colbey Ross, Marqueze Coleman, Lamond Murray, Cameron Oliver, Jordan Caroline/Marcus Marshall
Please name your personal own NBA Rushmore. Which four heads would you pick past or present for your list?
Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal
What is your personal opinion of the never ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Kobe Bryant and I’ll stay with that.
What was the last movie that you saw?
I just saw, Once upon a time in Hollywood, with my German teammates recently. I thought it could’ve been a little better movie.
>Thanks Eric for the chat.