Cooper Flagg goes through a drill at a USA Basketball men’s junior national team minicamp workout in April in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of USA Basketball

Five months after his head-turning performance at the FIBA World Cup, USA Basketball gave Cooper Flagg a birthday present.

Flagg, a Newport native and former standout for the Nokomis High boys’ basketball team, was named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year for his efforts in leading the United States’ U17 team to a gold medal in Malaga, Spain, in July.

Flagg, who turned 16 on Wednesday, is the youngest winner of the award, which started in 1980.

Flagg was the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year and Varsity Maine Male Athlete of the Year as a freshman after leading Nokomis to the 2022 Class A championship, the program’s first state title. Flagg and his twin brother, Ace, transferred to Montverde Academy in Florida for their sophomore seasons.

Flagg thrived in Spain despite being one of the youngest players on the championship U17 team, averaging 9.3 points and a team-high 10 rebounds per game while also leading the team with 2.4 steals and 2.9 blocks. Team USA went 7-0, and after the victory in the gold-medal game, Flagg was honored with a parade in his home town.

At the parade, Flagg recalled the excitement of the tournament, which was capped by a 79-67 win over Spain.


“After the game, even parents and all of the fans (in Spain) were just booing and flipping us off and just yelling at us,” Flagg told the Morning Sentinel. “Personally, for me, that just made it better.”

Flagg is in Honolulu with the Montverde Academy basketball team and could not be reached immediately on Wednesday.

USA Basketball Director of Youth and Sport Development Don Showalter, who coached Flagg at a training camp in Colorado leading up to his U17 team selection, called Flagg a deserving winner of the award.

“It’s something that’s hard to earn, but he’s earned it,” Showalter said on Wednesday. “From training camp on, every day, he was just very consistent. And in the games, he was phenomenal.”

Cooper Flagg, wearing his U17 men’s national team World Cup gold medal, was honored with a parade in Newport this summer. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Even while playing among some of the best high-school age players in the country at the World Cup, Flagg managed to stand out. He scored 18 points with 11 rebounds in a 106-80 quarterfinal victory over Serbia. Then, in the final against Spain, he was the team’s most efficient player with 10 points, 17 rebounds, eight steals and four blocks.

“He was really good the moment he was in the game,” Showalter said. “Whether he starts or not, every minute he’s in the game, he contributes something to winning the game. And it doesn’t take him four, five or six minutes to get going.”

At 6-foot-7, Flagg dominated at Nokomis High as an inside scorer and rebounder, and also showed an uncanny ability to read the floor as a passer and challenge shots without fouling. He averaged 20.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 3.7 steals as a freshman, and guided the Warriors to a 17-1 regular season.

Flagg kept up his play in the playoffs, scoring 27 points with 12 rebounds in the Class A North final victory over Brewer, and then pouring in 22 points with 16 rebounds in the state final win over Falmouth.

Flagg, who has received scholarship offers from major NCAA Division I programs such as Duke and UCLA, announced his decision to leave for Montverde, a national basketball powerhouse, in March. He’s averaging nine points in 20 minutes per game for the 8-2 Eagles, while also averaging 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.7 blocks and two steals.

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