Elijah Cooper is one of those can't-miss prospects.
He's got all the traits. Skills on the court. Strong academics. Goal oriented.
He's not afraid of a challenge, either.
The Northeastern High School senior is a pretty special talent.
He's a 1,000-point scorer, and has turned quite a few heads on the AAU circuit.
"My recruiting process was all over the place," Cooper said.
Try this on for size. Mid-major Division I programs. Division II schools. Division III powerhouses.
"I think you have some kids that choose to go to a Division I school because it's Division I," Cooper said. "They choose to go Division I, and they may never see the floor and or just see minimual playing time. I didn't want to do that. When I started the recruiting process, I didn't look at what division a school was in. I wanted to make the best decision for myself in terms of athletics and academics."
Then, Mike Nestor entered the picture.
Nestor is an energetic guy who has a passionate for the game of basketball. When he says Lock Haven basketball can and will win, you believe him.
He didn't promise wins in his first season at the helm of the program. He promised hustle and effort each night. Attend just one game, and you will see that he made good on that promise. Lock Haven plays hard every single possession.
Nestor never threw the bull with Cooper.
He was straight-up. Honest. To the point.
"I like coach Nestor a lot," the Northeastern star said. "Out of all the coaches, he was the most honest. He told me exactly what he could offer me, and what my role would be. I liked his honesty. No matter who you talk to, everyone has good things to say about coach Nestor. He made a big difference in my decision."
Instead of going Division I or Division III, Cooper chose Division II.
He chose Nestor and the Bald Eagles.
"Elijah knows the game," Nestor said. "He has a high basketball IQ. His court vision is great. Offensively, he can score and we will continue to work on his jump shot to get that consistency. But really, his court vision is amazing. He's a 6-foot-3 point guard who can lead an offense."
You don't need to get into too many specifics with Cooper about Bald Eagle basketball.
Even though he is hours away, he follows the team on a regular basis.
"They play hard," Cooper said. "I know exactly what they are going through cause I went through it here when I was young. It's tough to win games when you are young and have a new coach. The fact that they fight every single night shows they want to win, and really, shows what kind of heart they have. Time will fix the young part. You can't fix work ethic and playing hard, and those guys play hard every time on the court."
He's not worried about coming into a rebuilding program.
Actually, he embraces it.
"When I thought about it, Lock Haven was like a perfect fit for me," he said. "Basketball-wise, I'm stepping into a similar situation that I did here when I was a freshman. Hopefully, I can enter there and be a leader like I was here. That's important for me because I want to be a leader."
Cooper has been a leader on a Northeastern team that's currently 14-8 on the season.
He recently scored his 1,000th point in a 78-67 victory over West York; a game where he finished with 25 points. He just dropped 20 points in a league quarterfinal loss the other night.
He's averaging close to 17 points per night.
"Every year, we tried to set the bar a little higher," Cooper said. "Our two goals that we set for this year was to be first in the county and win a district title. We just lost in our county playoffs, but we still have a chance to reach the goal of winning a district title. We know what we need to do, and I think our guys have been pushing each other in practice a little harder to get that championship."
Pushing is exactly what Nestor expects Cooper to do when he gets on the hardwood floor of Thomas Fieldhouse.
"He'll fit in beautifully in our system," Nestor said. "I don't think he'll have a problem offensively. He'll push from the first day he gets here, and it will be good for Terrelle (Johnson) too because he'll have someone challenging him every day in practice. That's going to make him a better player as well.
"With the players we have here now, plus Elijah and Stephon Baker (red-shirting), we have a pretty good start here."
And Cooper feel the same way.
"Lock Haven turned out to be the best fit for me," Cooper said. "Both of my parents went there, but neither one really pushed me to choose the school. They both knew that this was a decision that I had to make on my own, and they let me do that. They were very supportive, and would support any decision that I made. I'm just happy to be attending Lock Haven, and excited about my future there."
Tom Fox is sports editor at The Express and covers basketball at Lock Haven University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.