Atlanta Hawks rookie Sharife Cooper, is one of the NBA Draft’s most underrated prospects in 2021. He plays point guard and the Hawks drafted him 48th overall in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Cooper is currently on a two-way contract with College Park Skyhawks of the NBA G-League and played college basketball for Auburn Tigers. He attended McEachern High School and played high school basketball over there.
Cooper is from Newark, New Jersey, moved to Atlanta when he was around six years old and comes from a basketball family. One of his sisters, Te’a Cooper plays for the Los Angeles Sparks. Omar Cooper who is a star player at Walker’s School, Georgia, is Sharife’s twin brother.
Sharife Cooper: High-School sensation
Sharife Cooper averaged 16 points and 4.4 assists per game as a freshman in 2016–17, leading McEachern High School, Georgia to a 29–1 record and a state semi-finals appearance. He led the Indians to a 26–3 record and a quarter-finals appearance the next year.
Media headlines featured him after his 42-point performance against nationally-ranked Hudson Catholic Regional High School. In an 83-81 win, he made a game-winning buzzer-beater.
Cooper averaged 27.2 points, 8.1 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.3 steals per game while leading McEachern to a perfect 32–0 record and the school’s first state title. He scored 20 points in the Finals win against Meadowcreak and McEachern ranked 1st in three nationwide polls. His accolades were the MVP award at the City of Palms Classic and at many other events.
He also won USA Today All-USA Player of the Year, MaxPreps National Player of the Year. Cooper also played in the 2020 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game.
College career at Auburn
Sharife Cooper decided to play college basketball at Aubrun on September 27, 2019. He was the highest-ranked recruit and the second five-star recruit in program history. Cooper’s start at Auburn was quite unfortunate as he missed his first 12-games of the season. He explored pro career options at that time.
Cooper recorded 26 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in his Aubrun debut loss to Alabama. He posted a season-high 28 points, 12 assists and 5 rebounds in a 95–77 win over Georgia four days later. Sharife averaged 20.2 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game through 12 appearances. His college career earned him Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team honours. He decided to enter the 2021 NBA Draft on 2nd April 2021.
Future in the NBA
To everyone’s surprise, Sharife Cooper was drafted 48th overall, which is quite late for a player of his status. Nevertheless, he has proven his worth in the Summer League.
The Atlanta Hawks are 2 games into the Summer League and probably got the steal of the draft. Cooper is extremely confident and comfortable on the court. He finished with 21 points and 9 assists on Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. He knocked down five 3-pointers in just his second summer league game.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 10, 2021
His rookie teammate Jalen Johnson is also a steal for the Hawks. He is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds in his first 2 games already. The Hawks starting point guard Trae Young praised Cooper. He sat courtside for both games and spoke with the rookie after the latter knocked down a game-winner.
All this being said, Sharife Cooper is probably the most underrated player in this year’s draft class. Seeing his presence on the court, he surely has a promising future with the Hawks.