Cooper Flagg takes a shot with a basketball during a game.
Nokomis High School's Cooper Flagg takes the ball to the hoop through three Falmouth High School defenders during the Maine Class A boys basketball championship game at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Cooper Flagg and his Nokomis Regional High School teammates spent last winter traveling to such Maine high school basketball hotbeds as Brewer, Skowhegan, Augusta and finally Portland en route to capturing the program’s first Class A state championship.

The travel itineraries are a bit more sophisticated this spring.

They began with the 6-foot-8-inch freshman from Newport visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, as one of the top-ranked players nationally in the Class of 2025 for a USA Basketball minicamp in conjunction with the NCAA Division I men’s Final Four.

“It was a good opportunity to meet a lot of people,” said Flagg, who also attended the national semifinals featuring North Carolina against Duke and Kansas against Villanova during his weekend in the Crescent City.

More recently Flagg and the Maine United 15-and-under travel team have spent weekends in Orlando, Florida, and Indianapolis, Indiana, as the first Pine Tree State entry to compete in the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

“It’s a little different than last year,” Flagg said of this spring’s schedule. “It’s obviously the same concept with AAU but besides that it’s pretty much the same thing, just traveling and playing against other people. But definitely this year we’re doing a little more traveling than what we’re used to.”

The schedule, which also includes weekly team practices and individual workouts at the Eastern Maine Sports Academy in Veazie, is demanding but it’s also paying off, both for the team and its leader.

Maine United has a 7-1 record through its first two Elite Youth Basketball League events and may be on track to qualify for the season-ending Peach Jam scheduled for July 17-24 in Augusta, Georgia, where the league’s national champion will be crowned.

“It’s the highest level of competition that you can get, really,” Flagg said. “You’re not finding better players than there are at these tournaments, so it’s good to test yourselves against the best.”

Flagg and twin brother Ace Flagg, who both are set to transfer to prep school basketball power Montverde (Florida) Academy this fall, are two of the nine players on the Maine United squad coached by former University of Maine men’s basketball standout Andy Bedard and assisted by former UMaine women’s basketball player Kelly (Bowman) Flagg, Cooper and Ace’s mother.

Others on the roster are Nokomis freshman Dawson Townsend, Landon Clark of Bangor, Leo McNabb and Sammy Nzeyimana of Cheverus High School in Portland, Gabe Lash of Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Jace Bessey of Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, and Kaden Bedard, the son of coach Bedard who already attends Montverde Academy.

“It’s definitely going pretty well,” Flagg said. “Guys are rising up and doing their parts. I think everyone realizes how much this means to all of us and are working as hard as they can.”

Individual recognition for Flagg seemingly increases with each tournament performance.

During the in-state season, he became the first Maine high school freshman to be named a Gatorade Maine Basketball Player of the Year and also headed up the 66th Bangor Daily News All-Maine team after leading Nokomis to a 20-1 record.

Since then he has risen up the national rankings for this year’s freshman class and last week   was ranked third in the 2025 recruiting class by ESPN.

“It’s obviously very fulfilling knowing that all that hard work has paid off,” Flagg said of the ranking. “But just knowing that there’s two other people ahead of you makes you want to work even harder.”

The only players currently listed ahead of Flagg in the Class of 2025 are Cameron Boozer, a 6-8, 215-pound power forward from Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Florida, and Koa Peat, a 6-8, 215-pound forward from Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona.

Flagg met both players at the USA Basketball minicamp, and on Sunday he played against Boozer and his twin brother, 24th-ranked freshman Cayden Boozer, at the Indianapolis Elite Youth Basketball League tournament.

The sons of former NBA standout Carlos Boozer led their team, the Nightrydas, to victory over Maine United to end its seven-game winning streak.

“With a game like basketball when you’re playing each other it’s always going to be competitive,” Flagg said. “You don’t get to the top without being competitive. I think everyone that’s ranked at the top is always going to have a really competitive mindset so any friendship you have with anyone is obviously going to be competitive as well.”

Flagg’s most recent scholarship offers have come from major-college programs UCLA and Iowa, and his play at the EYBL tournaments have drawn the attention of myriad other big-time coaches from around the country.

Coaches from Kentucky and Duke — reportedly a personal favorite of Flagg’s — were among those on hand to watch him play in Indianapolis.

“You see them on the baseline,” said Flagg, whose team is scheduled to return to action at the Orlando MADE Tournament on May 7-8 and at another event in Albany, New York, later in the month before resuming league competition. “But you don’t know exactly how many there are.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...