November 23, 2011

Steve Solloway: Learning his place in basketball, and his place in life

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Darren Cooper, a member of the Maine Red Claws this season, underwent personal tragedies that short-circuited his basketball career. But he stood up for his family, found the opportunity to play basketball again, and is beginning his fourth season in the D-League.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Darren Cooper

Sitting with me Tuesday in the Portland Expo, Cooper never mentioned his nomination and at the time I didn't know. He won't beat the drum for himself.

That was Julie Lapomarda Natale's job. She's worked as a sports information directer at a number of colleges. The University of Portland was her most recent job in that field until she returned to Maine a few years ago to be close to her ailing mother.

That's why she had a ticket to the game last winter when the Dakota Wizards were in Maine. And why she'll probably be at more games this season. You invest in people like Darren Cooper.

His mom follows his career. Her daughter-in-law is with her. Cooper met Zakiya when he was with the Los Angeles D-fenders of the D-League. They've been married for three years and talk every night on Skype.

"She's my best friend," said Cooper. "She's so uplifting. She made me a sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving. My plan is to help the team win (in Springfield, Mass., on Friday), come home and eat that pie."

Cooper has a general studies degree from the University of Portland, a Catholic school. He minored in drama. He wants to be a stage actor, working in Christian theater.

He's been studying that role for years.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)