Cooper still a force for MC

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CLINTON — When he was at Vicksburg High, Michael Cooper was a fast, goal-scoring machine.

Now at Mississippi College, Cooper remains a fast, goal-scoring machine.

The Choctaws senior currently ranks third in NCAA Division III with 18 goals scored. He has four hat tricks and averages 1.2 goals per game, the fourth-best scoring rate in the country. If he can keep up that pace, Cooper could be a candidate for All-America honors.

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“I’ve had a lot of luck,” said the usually self-effacing Cooper. “Really, it’s my teammates. I have the toughest time trying to score in practice and it just seems to be easier when we play the games.”

Mississippi College coach Kevin Johns, whose teams have gone 49-18-10 over the last four years, said Cooper is a big reason why the Choctaws (9-3-3) could reach the American Southwest Conference finals for the first time since 2006.

“He’s definitely an All-Region player right now,” Johns said. “For him to make All-American will depend on how we do as a team. They usually pick guys from the top teams in the country. Right now, we’re third in our conference, but we’ve been to the conference finals before. If we could win 12 to 13 games and make the conference finals again, he could do it.”

After two seasons at Hinds Community College, where he was named All-Region 23 twice, Cooper received interest from some Division I schools. But he wanted to stay close to home and chose Mississippi College.

“I could’ve gone to Southern Miss or Mississippi State, but if I had, I probably wouldn’t have played soccer. The thing with MC is that here, I knew a bunch of the guys on the team and was comfortable playing with them,” Cooper said.

Johns said getting a player like Cooper was a big boost for his program.

“There’s no doubt Cooper is a Division I talent, but he expressed a desire to play somewhere close to home. It’s worked out well,” Johns said. “He’s been very, very productive. He is so athletic and so fast. Many of his goals come from his sheer athleticism. And it’s a credit to him that he keeps pushing himself to be even better.”

At Vicksburg High, Cooper made his mark while helping put the Gators’ program on the map.

As a sophomore, he helped VHS reach the Class 5A championship game against Clinton. The following season he scored 30 goals and won his second consecutive Vicksburg Post Player of the Year award as VHS advanced to the Class 5A semifinals — only to lose, again, to Clinton. In 2007 he scored 28 goals as the Gators reached the Class 4A semifinals before losing to Pearl.

Cooper then signed with Hinds, where he continued to develop his skills.

“First off, Coop is extremely quick and he’s had a lot of success when you get him involved,” said MC teammate Tyler Wade, who starred at Pearl and often faced with Cooper on the pitch. “From when I played against him when I was at Pearl, until now, is he is now attacking the ball better. And the big reason for that is his confidence is so good.”

Cooper’s combination of speed, size and confidence has attracted attention from other teams, too. Last year he was invited to train with members of the Mississippi Brilla, a mid-level pro league soccer club that is based in Clinton. It gave Cooper a glimpse at what life is like on the next level, and whet his appetite for a taste of it.

“Yeah, it’s something I would like to do,” Cooper said. “There’s some things I need to get better on. I want to develop more composure. I also need to work on my movement off the ball.”


Contact Jeff Byrd at