Cooper Flagg Q&A: ‘Brian Scalabrine filled me with confidence’

Cooper Flagg, the young phenom currently projected as No. 1 pick for the 2025 NBA draft, has been a name on many basketball fans’ radar over the past couple of years

After one practice at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, the 6-foot-11 forward from Maine sat down with HoopsHype to talk about transferring to the powerhouse Montverde Academy, the impact of Brian Scalabrine, getting advice from LeBron James, preparing for Duke, and more.

How did you like being out here for the Nike Hoop Summit?

NBAE/Getty Images
NBAE/Getty Images

Cooper Flagg: I mean it’s amazing. It’s a great opportunity. It’s all guys I’m familiar with from other camps. So it’s a great experience to come out here and compete. Get better with the team and represent the country.

How does this event here compare to the McDonald’s All-American?

CF: I’d say this is a little bit more serious in a way. Just because we’re representing the country, so we really want to win this. Every practice is taken very seriously. It’s like a real gold medal game, so we’re taking it very serious, and I’m just enjoying every aspect of it.

You grew up in the Northeast, so changing schools to Montverde Academy down to Florida must have been a drastic change of lifestyle. What was the biggest adjustment for you?

Jonah Hinebaugh/Napi/USA Today Sports
Jonah Hinebaugh/Napi/USA Today Sports

CF: I’d say the biggest challenge is moving like that. You’re moving away from home at a young age. You’re without your parents, without your family and friends you grew up with. I’d say that’s the hardest part. Just meeting new people, trying to find new things, trying to find new things to do in the area.

When you moved down, was there any doubt or were you confident the whole way that you were going to excel wherever you go?

CF: I mean I’m always confident in myself, but there was definitely some doubt. Everyone has that side where you doubt a little bit. But once I was settled in, there was never a doubt once I actually got down there.

What was that like for you as a 15-year-old freshman, to be invited to take part in the USAB Junior National Team minicamp when all the other players were much older than you?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

CF: It was a surreal experience to me. That was my first time going to a camp, or minicamp to anything. So when I went to my first minicamp for USA in Louisiana, it was just a great experience meeting new people. Met a lot of people that are kinda in my life now that I can talk to and use. So really good minds like Coach [Sharman] White able to meet him and both of the other assistants on the staff. I met them all that time ago when I was 15. So it was crazy to have that experience and meet new people.

Brian Scalabrine was the first NBA player you met. How big of an impact has Brian Scalabrine been for you these last couple years?

CF: I definitely think he had a big impact on me and influenced some decisions. Just ‘cause he knows what it takes, and at the time we didn’t know. We kinda had some doubts, and I think he kinda just filled me with confidence. He’s seen a lot of people, a lot of prospects. He’s been in the league. So he knows what it takes to get there, and he kinda instilled that kind of confidence in me, and it was really the first person from afar just telling me and pushing me forward and really just giving me that confidence.

There was a viral clip with you and LeBron James at the Peach Jam last summer. He pulled you to the side and gave you some advice. For him to even know who you are, wanting to talk to you, and give you advice, what does that mean to you?

CF: Yeah, I think it means everything. As an idol for I think most every single basketball player, something they would even dream of to that extent. So the fact that he knows me and took the time to step aside and say some words for me was really cool. It was surreal because I kind of idolized him through my life.

What’s one thing that you excel at that you think most people don’t know about?

Marcus Ingram/Getty Images
Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

CF: I think just my [basketball] IQ. My passing on the court is a little bit underrated, just ‘cause I feel like I’m really good at just finding the open man and making the right play.

And you think you’ll be able to showcase those things once you’re at Duke next season?

CF: Yeah, I think so. I think something I really excelled at was just doing whatever I can to help the team win. The little things, just rebounding, playing defense. So whatever Coach [Jon] Scheyer needs me to do, I’ll just do that and people are gonna understand that, and really see that come out.

So why Duke over the other schools?

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

CF: I mean, just fit. Fit and feel. Great relationship with Coach Scheyer. Durham is a great place, a great environment. I mean just the environment and the feel and the fit for me.

A lot of people don’t like Duke. Are you ready to be the villain while you play there?

CF: For sure. I really don’t care what anybody says. I’m just ready to go out and play basketball. Honestly, when people want to hate and say bad stuff, it kinda makes me play better and fuels me to go harder.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype