“Being Player of the Year was the highlight of my senior year. Everyone was talking about other point guards, like the one from Rock Point, who was really quick. I never thought I would get [the award]. I didn’t try [to win an award], I just worked hard.”
Words from a humble Salt River High School student-athlete, Kishan Cooper, who was named the 2012-13 Division IV girls basketball Player of the Year.
In the fall, Cooper plans to attend and play basketball at Chaminade University of Honolulu, in Honolulu, Hawaii. She received a personal invitation from the head coach of the women’s basketball team, the Lady Silverswords.
“I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ll just stay local and go to SCC (Scottsdale Community College) or Grand Canyon University.’ I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do, I kind of got lazy. But when I got the call from the head coach, I was like, ‘I need to get back into it,’” recalled Cooper, laughing. “They had already handed out all of their scholarships, but coach (Shawn) Lytle sent some of my videos in, and [the Chaminade University coach] liked my style.”
Cooper started as the point guard for the Lady Eagles. It isn’t clear yet what position she will be playing at Chaminade, but the former Lady Eagle will be joining the team’s camp in the early fall. She plans to pursue a degree in occupational therapy.
“I wanted to go into this field because I was inspired by my baby sister, Katrina. She’s one of my biggest inspirations because she has Down syndrome, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of her smiling. When I have a bad day, all she has to do is look at me and smile, and I think to myself, ‘OK, I can do this,’” said Cooper, smiling as she talked about her sister. “I was always interested in the medical field, I was thinking about being a nurse, but when my sister’s [occupational] therapist would come over and work with her, I would ask questions and discuss what exactly they do and all of that. I became more interested after I talked with them and I enjoyed how they worked with her. I love kids and working with kids.”
Cooper also credits her father, Scott Cooper, for providing inspiration and teaching her hard work. “My dad is always telling us to better in ourselves and to work hard. He’s a huge inspiration to me; he works hard to provide for us as a family, and when coaching he pushes us to accomplish things he may not have been able to,” Cooper said. “Another thing my dad has taught me is value in family. We are all really close; without them I don’t know where I would be.”
One of the challenges Cooper plans on embracing is starting from the ground up, getting to know the girls on the team and proving herself to them and to the coaches. “I like that, I like having to prove myself, it gives me an opportunity to be better,” she said. “I’m hard on myself like that. I am always looking to be better on and off the court. This will be a new adventure for me, and even though I will be far away, my family, especially my parents, support me in bettering myself.”
Although Cooper feels leaving will be bittersweet, her overall goal is to return to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and work as an occupational therapist, having her own practice and working with children.
Cooper would like to thank her family, coach Shawn Lytle, the Lady Eagles basketball and softball teams, and Lata Sitake for all their support as she enters the next chapter of her life.
Left: Kishan Cooper looks up to her family in the crowd holding the trophy moments after they defeated their arch rival, Tempe Prep Knights in the Girls Basketball Division 4 Championship. Cooper was later announced the player of the year.