Winning the state’s basketball player of the year award requires more than compiling impressive statistics. It also usually involves garnering national recognition and winning a state championship or two along the way.
Sometimes the choice is clear cut. But this season, two players – Te’a Cooper of McEachern and Asia Durr of St. Pius – met all of the criteria and more and have been selected as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s girls co-players of the year.
Durr scored what is thought to be a state-best 33.3 points per game this season for a St. Pius team that finished 27-4 and lost to eventual state champion Buford 59-55 in the Class AAAA quarterfinals. She was the team’s leader in rebounds (6.4 per game), assists (2.3), steals (1.5) and blocked shots (0.6).
Durr finished her career as the leading scorer in school history – male or female – with 2,764 points. And she picked up two state championships, winning Class AAA titles in 2013 and 2014. She is also the two-time winner of the Gatorade Georgia Girls Player of the Year award.
“The kid works harder than she plays,” St. Pius coach Kyle Snipes said. “She has really made the decision to be the best player she can possibly be, and when she gets to the next level I think she’ll be even better because of her work ethic. That coupled with the fact that she’s the most humble kid I’ve ever been around.”
Cooper averaged 27.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.5 steals this season in leading McEachern (24-6) to the Class AAAAAA championship, the Indians’ second consecutive title and their third in four years. McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur said it was the most unexpected championship of the three, especially after the team lost post players Caliya Robinson and Zieandrea Bridges to season-ending injuries early in the season.
Cooper came off the bench during her freshman season on a team that went undefeated and cruised to the state title. She has been the Indians’ unquestioned leader ever since. She finished her career with more the 2,300 points, second in school history.
“It’s her work ethic,” Arthur said. “She’s a workhorse, a workaholic if you ask me. Most players would spend 30 minutes or an hour after practice. Te’a would spend two or three hours after practice, after games, in the mornings, in the afternoons, at night. It’s like a job to her.
“And she’s one of those players who wants to get everyone involved. She could’ve easily averaged 30-something points a game, but she’d rather dish it off and give other players an opportunity.”
Both players have been selected for the prestigious McDonald’s and Jordan Brand all-star games, and both were among the five finalists for the Naismith National Player of the Year award.
Cooper has signed with Tennessee and will team up with former state player of the year Diamond DeShields, who redshirted this season after transferring from North Carolina. Durr has signed with Louisville, where she hopes to “get them over the hump to where they want to be,” Snipes said.
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