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Cooper Flagg never doubted that he’d make the U17 national basketball team

Cooper Flagg was back at the grind late Wednesday afternoon, going through his stretching exercises just before his second practice of the day at the US Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Yet this practice was different.

The 15-year-old Newport native, fresh from completing his freshman year at Nokomis Regional High School, was no longer merely a candidate for the 2022 USA Basketball Men’s U17 National Team.

The 6-foot-8 forward was named to the 12-player squad earlier in the day, and now the task was switching from the tryout phase to preparing to help represent the United States at the FIBA ​​U17 World Cup in Malaga, Spain, in early July.

“Cooper is a very versatile player — he can do a lot of things,” said Sharman White, head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s U17 National Team as well as the boys basketball coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. “He can play inside; he can play outside, and he can handle the ball. I feel very good about his IQ as a player. He’s like an Army switchblade knife.”

Flagg’s selection to the U17 national team is the latest in a remarkable series of events for the son of Ralph and Kelly (Bowman) Flagg, who began his freshman season at Nokomis last November having already established himself as one of the top players from the Class of 2025 nationally through his play on the travel basketball circuit.

He and twin brother Ace led Nokomis to its first Class A state championship in boys basketball in March, with Cooper also becoming the first freshman — boy or girl — in state history to be named Gatorade Maine Player of the Year in the sport.

Flagg was selected to go to New Orleans in early April to participate in a USA Basketball minicamp in early April held in conjunction with the NCAA Division I Final Four, and he also spent this spring starring for the Maine United 15-and-under club team that became the first team of its kind from Maine to participate in the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

Maine United went 7-1 in its first two EYBL tournaments in Orlando, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana, to clinch a berth in the season-ending Peach Jam national tournament set for July 17-24.

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