Cooper Flagg hasn’t decided on a college yet.
It’s understandable. It’s still early in the process.
He just finished his freshman season at Nokomis High School of Newport, where he led the Warrior boys to their first state Class A basketball championship and became the first freshman to be selected the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year.
The 15-year-old phenom has already received scholarship offers from Duke, UCLA, Michigan, West Virginia, Iowa, Albany, Bryant and the University of Maine.
The 6-foot-8 forward just helped lead Team USA to the FIBA World Cup Under-17 championship in Spain, and was chosen the third-best freshman basketball player in the country by ESPN.
UMaine would be a perfect fit for Flagg.
For just one year. One potentially magical season.
After that, he can take advantage of the one-time transfer rule and move on to Duke or another big-time basketball school without having to sit out a year.
Yes, it’s crazy. It makes no sense. The UMaine men’s basketball team is an absolute mess. It has become irrelevant in a basketball-crazed state. The Black Bears haven’t had a winning season overall — or even in America East play — since they went 16-15 and 9-7, respectively, in 2010-11.
Since that season, they have gone 81-238 overall. That is a winning percentage of 24.6 percent.
Their America East regular season record is 41-130. That winning percentage is even worse.
So why would Flagg even consider UMaine?
As he showed at the FIBA Under-17 World Cup and during his high school season, he loves challenges and thrives under pressure.
Coming to UMaine would be the ultimate challenge.
UMaine is one of just 35 teams that hasn’t played in the NCAA men’s tournament. There are 350 Division I basketball schools.
He could be the player who leads UMaine to its first NCAA men’s basketball tournament berth.
That would elevate him to rarefied air.
With that accomplishment, he would join the ranks of other UMaine greats, such as Hall of Famer Cindy Blodgett from Clinton, who led the UMaine women’s basketball team to four NCAA Tournament berths.
Or Paul Kariya, who went on to a National Hockey League Hall of Fame career after leading UMaine to its first NCAA championship in 1992-93 and becoming the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation’s best Division I player.
Then there’s the family connection.
His mother, Kelly Bowman Flagg, played on some of those outstanding UMaine teams with Blodgett. Like her son, she was a first team Bangor Daily News All-Maine selection. She was actually a two-time first-teamer from Nokomis.
It could potentially be a package deal, as Flagg’s twin brother Ace has also been offered a scholarship from UMaine.
Both are attending the prestigious Montverde Academy in Florida this year.
He would be playing 36.6 miles from his Newport home so family and friends could follow his career in-person.
When Flagg was a freshman at Nokomis this past season, it was as difficult to get a ticket to a Nokomis game on the road as it was at home.
The Cross Insurance Center — or a new on-campus facility, if it’s ready in three years — would be packed with fans wanting to see him play.
The buzz on game night would be exhilarating.
The whole state would be tuned in.
Help is already on the way in the form of new head coach Chris Markwood, who was a former player at UMaine and Notre Dame and a successful assistant coach at UMaine, Northeastern and Boston College.
He was chosen as the top assistant coach in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2020.
Now it’s up to the South Portland native to put the pieces in place so that if Flagg does come to UMaine, the team has a legitimate shot to win the league tournament and earn that elusive NCAA tourney berth.
It would make no sense for Flagg to come to a program that was still rebuilding and not likely to win America East even with him on board, especially when you have the likes of Duke, West Virginia, UCLA, Michigan and Iowa already offering you a scholarship.
In all honesty, it is a long shot. He would be under a lot of pressure and scrutiny.
If he ever suffered a serious injury at UMaine, it could cost him the opportunity to play at a big-time basketball school.
But it’s fun to think about, and you can’t completely rule it out.