By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
Lady Bears starting point guard Te’a Cooper came to Waco because of the opportunities she would gain on the court. But what the South Carolina transfer didn’t know was how much the environment at Baylor would impact her.
“Everything here is so easygoing,” Cooper said. “It’s almost too good to be true.
The defending national champion Lady Bears are currently ranked No. 2 in the country with a 16-1 record. After losing both first-round WNBA draft pick Kalani Brown and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Chloe Jackson, adding Cooper has been beneficial to their continued success as she’s currently averaging 14.6 points and 5.1 assists per game.
Cooper said a large factor in her decision to come to Baylor was the opportunity to play the point guard position. At South Carolina, Cooper made the second All-SEC team in 2019 as a guard but didn’t play the point position.
“I wanted to play point guard,” Cooper said. “I didn’t play point guard at South Carolina.”
According to Cooper, playing point guard at Baylor has allowed her to have a special relationship with head coach Kim Mulkey, who won two national championships while playing the same position at Louisiana Tech.
While Mulkey was not originally sold on bringing in graduate transfers, she started to come around after Jackson joined the team in 2018. Jackson was instrumental in bringing Cooper to Baylor.
“I think part of the deal is who is [Cooper] going to send me,“ Mulkey said. “Chloe talked me into taking Coop.”
Mulkey said that the question about Cooper transferring wasn’t her talent — it was about whether Cooper would be able to blend in with other extremely talented players around her.
But Cooper has been successful at Baylor because she has been able to fit in with the team’s chemistry so well and done exactly what the team needs her to.
“You can’t have good team chemistry if you bring people in from the outside that don’t understand what’s expected of them here,” Mulkey said. “If you’re going to take a transfer, they better understand the culture, the atmosphere, and how we do things. I think that speaks volumes not only to Coop, but also to Chloe. It didn’t take them long to adjust.”
The appreciation Cooper has for her teammates, staff and environment at Baylor show why she has fit in so well here and helped the team stay on top of the rankings. Cooper said she would have liked being on the team as an undergrad “but just having this one year is pretty awesome.”
“Everyone here, I’m glad I got to meet,” Cooper said, “and I’m glad I get to spend this year with them.”
The graduate point guard has one piece of advice for girls wanting to play college basketball in the future.
“If you want to be challenged, and you want to win and you want to make great relationships, then you should be a Baylor Bear,” Cooper said.
Cooper and the Lady Bears host Texas Tech at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Ferrell Center.