Cooper Ainge is a walk on for the BYU basketball team. He returns to the team after serving an LDS mission in Santiago, Chile. Ainge, of course, is the son of BYU hoops GOAT Danny, as well as the brother of two-time all-conference performer Austin. Cooper is certainly looking to make his own mark on the BYU basketball legacy.
Skills, Talent, and Style
Offensively, Ainge has the ability to handle the basketball and his passing looks solid. In his high school highlight video, Ainge is dicing his way to the hoop and finding a layup. He appears much more comfortable creating his shot rather than catching and shooting. However, BYU has used Ainge primarily in catch-and-shoot situations during their 4 games in Spain, the blue-and-white scrimmage, and preseason victory over Arizona Christian. While I'm certain he has the leverage to pound the ball into the lane, he has been set around the perimeter waiting for other teammates to drive and kick. The transition from creating with the ball in your hands to spot shooter can be a difficult one, but it seems that Ainge is trying to make the most of this role.
Standing at 6-foot-0, Ainge is a little undersized, but can make up for this with quick hands and feet. Defensively, my hunch is that Cooper is more suited to play in the zone than in the man. We will find out together as we get to see more of his play. Highlight films simply don't show a player's understanding of help defense rotations.
Why You'll Love Him
"With all the facial expressions I make, you know, if I was watching me play I'd say, 'Hey, that guy's a whiner.'" – Danny Ainge.
The Ainge face is one of the most irritating sights in all of sports history. Except to BYU fans.
Plus, his middle name is Trey because he is the 3rd son.
Hopeful BYU Hoops Doppelgänger
For this season, Cooper Ainge's hopeful BYU doppelgänger is Craig Cusick.
Cusick was a BYU basketball success story, who made his way into the starting lineup after joining the team as a walk-on. Craig was a solid player who was nearly a 3-to-1 assists-to-turnover guy, all while shooting 39 percent from 3 for his career.
All of this was capped by Cusick making one of the greatest shots in program history (I rank it 4th all-time), and the best shot by a Cougar in the Marriott Center, when his free throw line putback sent the Utah State Aggies back to Logan with long, bitter faces.
What to Expect
Cooper adds depth to a loaded guard line. He strikes me as a player who will be ready to go when his number is called by Dave Rose. I think he will have a couple of important plays this season as he will be used on occasion to eat up minutes. He is a player that will improve year by year. With this being Ainge's first season to see action, it will be fascinating to watch his game develop.
On Media Day, I had the chance to finally ask a question that I had wondered my whole life to someone who could conceivably have the knowledge to answer it. Thus, I used my only interaction with Cooper Ainge (via Jarom Jordan asking) to ask the following: