Montverdes Cooper Flagg in action against Sunrise Christian during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic on January 16 in Springfield, Mass. AP file

NEWPORT — The search for the next great basketball prospect is never-ending. To Jeff Goodman, the next piece in that search hails from Maine.

Although there’s never a shortage of elite basketball talent, Goodman – one of the country’s most renowned basketball analysts – believes Cooper Flagg is in a rare category.

“There’s no clear-cut No. 1 in this college freshman class, and the high school senior class (is) kind of the same way; it’s underwhelming,” Goodman, a former ESPN broadcaster who is now a reporter for Stadium, said Thursday, a day before Flagg announced his decision to reclassify to 2024. “Everybody is looking for that next guy, and Cooper is that next guy.”

It’s a consensus that many analysts and recruiting gurus are reaching as Flagg heads into what will be his final year at the high school level after Friday’s reclassification announcement. There’s been a clear jump in the ex-Nokomis High standout’s game, and it’s taken him from a highly regarded prospect to a generational one.

Flagg has been an elite defensive prospect since the very start of Flagg Mania at Nokomis, if not even earlier. From Day 1, scouts and recruiting analysts have been raving about the versatility of his defensive game, whether it’s his elite shot-blocking, his rebounding, or his on-ball defense.

What’s changed, though, has been Flagg’s offensive capabilities. If he had a clear weakness before heading to Montverde Academy in Florida to ply his trade against some of the nation’s top high school teams, it was his shooting. He’s made a vast improvement, though, as Goodman noticed during Maine United’s deep run in last month’s Peach Jam tournament in South Carolina.


“Watching him at the Peach Jam this year several times, he’s gotten so much more confident with that and more comfortable shooting the ball,” Goodman said. “The hard part for Cooper is he can get to the basket whenever, but now he understands that, for his development, he needs to shoot from the perimeter, and that’s made him a better player.”

Rob Cassidy, a national recruiting analyst for, knew he was watching a special talent when he first saw Flagg play in last year’s Peach Jam tournament. Yet Cassidy did notice Flagg struggling to match up with some of the other elite players, particularly Cam Boozer, who was rated No. 2 behind Flagg in’s 2025 rankings before Flagg’s announcement that he’s moving to the Class of 2024.

This year at Peach Jam, Flagg had 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in leading Maine United past Boozer’s Nightrydas Elite squad in the first matchup between the two before putting up 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists when the teams met again in the championship game. It was a product, Cassidy said, of Flagg adding muscle mass and growing more into his body.

Cooper Flagg shoots foul shots during a Maine United basketball practice in June at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file

“Even watching them (last year), I felt he was the best long-term prospect, but he just wasn’t as physically developed as Boozer,” Cassidy said. “He physically got pushed around a little bit, but he was bigger this year, and he did not let that happen. I think it just took him a little bit when he started playing against guys who also have pro futures day-in and day-out, but that’s toughened him up and made him more consistent.”

Cassidy had said he’d rank Flagg as the No. 1 player in 2024 in the event he reclassified, and that adjustment to the rankings was made immediately Friday. Flagg also becomes the favorite to be the top NBA draft pick in 2025, with a skill set that’s tailored to fit the modern game.

“If you look at what the NBA wants right now, most of the big contracts you see are big, athletic wings that can handle the ball, and Cooper checks those boxes,” Cassidy said. “I still think he’s probably more advanced defensively right now than he is offensively, but he’s a special kid. I think he’s almost certainly a one-and-done type of guy.”


Scout and recruiting insider Samad Hines of has spoken highly of Flagg’s ball-handling, shot-blocking and all-around playmaking ability. A player with his skill set at 6-foot-8 is rare, he says.

The most significant growth Hines has seen from Flagg is his drive and aggression.

“Honestly, the biggest improvement I have seen from Cooper is probably just his intensity and competitiveness for the game,” Hines said. “He has always had skills and the competitiveness in him, don’t get me wrong, but he continues to grow, and he (is) showcasing it at a high level. I love his passion for his teammates and the game itself.”

There are other intangibles in Flagg’s favor, too. He made his teammates measurably better at Nokomis before doing the same at the U17 World Cup in Spain last summer. His ability to do so – one that’s “off the charts,” Goodman said – was also on display at Peach Jam, as he led Maine United to the title game.

Flagg, of course, is not about to stop working to get better, and no 16-year-old athlete’s game is ever perfect. There’s still room, Goodman said, for him to make even further progress on his already improved jump shot – not that he has any doubts the prodigy from Newport will do just that.

“The one area (he) can get better at with work is perimeter shooting, so I’m not worried; that’s the one area that nobody’s concerned about,” Goodman said. “He’s such a unique prospect that you can’t even compare him to anyone I’ve seen in the last 20 years. There’s nobody like him.”

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