Eric Hampford first saw Cooper Flagg in action in the spring and summer of 2020, when he was leading his Maine United basketball team as a seventh-grader to win after win in the Made League, an East Coast middle school AAU program.

He saw the potential and was impressed. What he saw the next year, however, blew him away.

“He was close to about 6-6, 6-7, and he was a monster,” said Hampford, the director of scouting for Made Hoops. “He was playing above the rim, he was outrebounding everybody. He was doing all the things that it looked like he could do the year before, but his maturation and his physical development ramped up completely.

“At that point, it was kind of like ‘Oh wow, this kid is definitely one of the best kids in the country.’ From there, it’s honestly just taken off.”

Maine fans will be able to see the latest chapter in that story when Flagg and twin brother, fellow NCAA Division I prospect Ace Flagg, return for a pair of games Friday and Saturday night with their Montverde Academy team. Friday’s game, against Gonzaga College High School of Washington, D.C., is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Cross Insurance Arena, while Saturday’s game, against CATS Academy Boston, is 6 p.m. at the Portland Expo.

The sold-out games, organized by Made Hoops, will be streamed on, which charges a subscription fee.


Many of the fans who will attend the games last saw the Flaggs, now 17, play in March 2022 when the Newport natives led Nokomis to the Class A championship as freshmen with a victory over Falmouth. Later that month, the brothers announced they were transferring to Montverde, a national prep basketball powerhouse in Florida, to continue their careers.

Since then, Cooper Flagg’s profile has exploded. A dominant performance in the U17 World Cup in the summer of 2022 led to his being named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, and his headline-grabbing play in AAU competition in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and with Montverde caused him to shoot up the national prospect rankings, all the way to the No. 1 spot.

Cooper Flagg says of his decision to commit to Duke University: “It’s definitely a relief, because it’s a hard, long process of narrowing schools down and talking to coaches. It’s really relieving to be locked into one school now and be able to focus on this year.” Gregory Payan/Associated Press

He’s a household name now, and his college decision process prompted national speculation and scrutiny, with every post on social media drawing tens or even hundreds of thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. When Flagg announced he was going to Duke, the reveal was the top story on ESPN’s website.

Two years after playing in central Maine gyms, Flagg is the center of national attention. And, he acknowledged, it can be a challenge.

“It gets a little overwhelming sometimes,” he said. “But having my support system around me and my family makes it easy to handle it and keep focusing on basketball.”

Flagg said there’s some novelty to seeing national media talking about him, even if it’s become more routine with time.


“A little bit of both. It’s obviously still really cool to see,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s as much surprising anymore, but it shows how your work is paying off.”

The challenges of media scrutiny are only a part of what he’s had to deal with. He and Ace both had to acclimate to a year of living in Montverde dorms away from their family before their parents came down to join them in their second year. Then, his reclassification from the Class of 2025 to 2024 invited a high-profile college recruitment process, one that came down to a difficult decision between Duke and UConn.

Cooper Flagg leads Montverde Academy, the top high school basketball team in the country according to ESPN, in rebounds and blocked shots while ranking second in points and assists and third in steals. Gregory Payan/Associated Press

“It becomes an emotional investment for the family,” Kelly Flagg, the twins’ mother, said after Cooper announced his commitment. “You get to know (the recruiters) personally. … It’s hard to end that. It’s almost like a break-up. It’s one of the most difficult things in this process.”

Cooper said having the college decision behind him has been calming.

“It’s definitely a relief, because it’s a hard, long process of narrowing schools down and talking to coaches,” he said. “It’s really relieving to be locked into one school now and be able to focus on this year.”

Basketball, by comparison, has been the easy part. Flagg leads Montverde, the top high school team in the country according to ESPN, in rebounds and blocks while ranking second in points and assists and third in steals.


“It’s benefitted me playing with really great players. At the next level from high school, you’re going to be playing with four other guys on the court that were top high school players,” he said. “I think it’s a good experience to be able to get ready for that, and just be able to practice against those types of guys every day.”

That experience has also benefited Ace, who has received offers from Division I schools, including St. Joseph’s, George Washington and West Virginia.

“All the coaches out here are so knowledgeable. … It really is helping me grow so much as a player,” Ace Flagg said. “(College coaches say) we have some of the hardest practices that they watch. We’re going three to four hours a day, just straight. … My game has improved so much because of it.”

Ace Flagg, then a freshman at Nokomis Regional High, drives to the basket during the 2022 Class A state championship game versus Falmouth. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

He showed that improvement over the summer during the prestigious Peach Jam tournament in the Nike EYBL with Maine United. In a game against Nightrydas Elite, a team with top prospects Cameron and Cayden Boozer, Ace had 22 points and 11 rebounds in a 73-65 victory that gained national attention.

The performance showed Ace’s growing scoring talent and ability to take over games, complementing his established skill set centering around defense, grit and hustle and situational plays.

“Ace has never strayed from what he is, who he is and what he’s about. He’s the ultimate teammate,” said Hampford of Made Hoops. “He’s a tenacious rebounder, he defends, he runs the court, he has great hands.

“He’s got such a good skill set himself, and sometimes that gets lost in the mix. But without Ace, that Maine United team doesn’t do the damage they did.”

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