In the span of a week in early March, class of 2024 forward Cooper Koch saw it all in the Big Ten.
There were court storms on consecutive nights at Wisconsin and Illinois, the IU and Purdue rivalry in West Lafayette, and then he saw Ron Harper, Jr. crush souls in Bloomington with a buzzer beater in Indiana’s home finale.
As the son of a former Iowa player, there was already a built-in bias towards the Big Ten, and that week certainly did nothing to diminish the Peoria, Ill. (Notre Dame H.S.) product’s feelings about the league.
Big Ten schools have been pushing the hardest in Koch’s recruitment so far, and he’ll acknowledge playing in the league is a good probability.
“It’s probably going to be somewhere in the Big Ten (where he commits) unless some other schools reach out and I really like them,” he told The Daily Hoosier on Saturday.
Koch’s father J.R. played at Iowa from 1995 to 1999, so of course the ties run deep in Iowa City. There he played with Wisconsin assistant coach Dean Oliver. Both schools are involved in Cooper’s recruitment, along with Illinois, Purdue and IU.
For the elder Koch, each stop on the recruiting trail has been like a journey back in time.
“It’s been fun,” J.R. Koch told The Daily Hoosier of revisiting the various Big Ten schools with his son. “I have good and bad experiences and memories at each place, so it’s nice to go back and share some of those with Coop and also meet the new coaching staff. It’s just been a fun experience.”
While he played in Iowa City, it is important to J.R. that Cooper sees a variety of options and reaches his own conclusion when it comes to a college destination.
“It’s his decision. He’s gotta live with it,” J.R. said. “So I’ll point out pluses and minuses from each school, each staff, each style, but in the end it’s his decision.”
The 6-foot-8 and 205 pound Koch came to Indiana in October twice on visits and then made the return trip in March. It’s a program he’s grown an appreciation for while growing up in a Big Ten household.
“Just knowing that it’s basketball country,” Cooper said of the appeal of Indiana. “The atmosphere in the building is amazing. They’ve got great history.”
Cooper plays AAU basketball for an Indiana Elite program that has been a good friend of the program over the years. He’s a 4-star prospect ranked No. 51 nationally according to the 247Sports Composite. He wants to play on the wing in college, and he’s got the perimeter shooting ability and size to fit in the league as a hybrid forward.
Frontcourt players who can make threes is a priority for Mike Woodson and his staff, and that is no doubt one reason why they are pushing for Koch despite the obvious Iowa connections. Cooper has been impressed by what he’s seen from IU thus far, with assistant coach Brian Walsh leading the way for the Hoosiers.
“I like the coaches. Coach Walsh, Coach Woodson, they’re good guys,” Cooper told The Daily Hoosier.
“e’s (Walsh) come to a lot of games and they’ve come to open gyms and some of my regular season games for high school.”
J.R. has also been impressed with the IU staff, and he has particularly taken note of the recruiting momentum of the program, including the guards his son could play with in Bloomington.
“I really like Coach Walsh, he’s been great,” J.R. said. “I like the direction the program is going. Sounds like they’ve got some great guys coming in. I like some of their guards that they have coming in that I think would mesh well and play the right way. There’s a lot of good things going on there at IU.”
Although he still has two years of high school remaining, Cooper has hinted that he could make a decision as early as this fall to get the process behind him and focus on improving.
What will be the key factors in his decision?
“The style of play the school runs, vibing with the coaches, and just who can improve me for the next level,” he said.
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