It’s been a year since Cooper Flagg’s athleticism and skill last brought basketball fans in Maine to their feet, but that hasn’t made the prodigy from Newport any less a part of Maine basketball’s fabric.

He knows the fans back home haven’t forgotten about him. Even if his games aren’t a short jaunt down I-95 anymore, there’s no less curiosity about what the 6-foot-7 ex-Nokomis star is doing now that he’s 1,000 miles from the place he calls home.

Well, on Saturday, you never would have known that Flagg, now a sophomore at Montverde Academy, had ever traded the snowy highlands of central Maine for the sunshine and palm trees of Florida. He was just as locals remember him: Wearing Nokomis garb, carrying around the Gold Ball and yukking it up with his teammates as if it were an ordinary day.

“Just being back in this gym where I’ve spent so many hours and seeing my friends and my family and my old teammates, it’s just a great feeling,” Flagg said. “I think it really is something where we’ll always be a family. I just love seeing all those people and spending time with them.”

Saturday was a reunion of sorts for last year’s Nokomis boys basketball team, which made history by winning the program’s first-ever state title. It was a chance for Cooper, who was given his 2021-22 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year honor, and his brother Ace to rejoin the teammates with whom they shared a legendary run that brought fans across the state to their feat in a way few squads ever have.

During last year’s season, Newport and the surrounding communities’ obsession with the Warriors reached fever patch. Flagg, one of the highest-ranked prospects to ever come out of Maine, wasn’t just a star player; he was their star player, one who put the area on the map.


That hasn’t stopped, even now that Flagg has nearly completed a full season with another school. There are few people in this part of the state who aren’t curious what the sophomore prodigy is doing, and many, such as Nokomis principal Mary Nadeau, are willing to take it even further.

“Cooper and Ace, I hope you guys are OK with us tagging onto your journey and living vicariously through you,” Nadeau told a crowd of roughly 150 in attendance to commemorate Cooper’s honor as well as celebrate the six state championship-winning teams in Nokomis sports history. “All of Warrior Nation is with you, and if anyone down there ever gives you grief, let us know.”

 were some odes to last year’s championship-winning journey. Queen’s “We are the Champions” blared on the loudspeakers following the conclusion of the ceremony, just as it did during a Flagg car ride home with the family of teammate Ethan Cote a year ago on the trip back from the state title game in Portland. Then there was Flagg, who you never would have known had been away from Nokomis basketball for a year as he piggybacked on his old teammates and shared in countless laughs. 

For Flagg, it’s hard to refer to his ex-teammates as “old.” He’s not — nor has he ever been — someone who thinks he’s too big for little-old Newport. Those teammates are no less his pals or his buddies than they were when they were relishing in their Gold Ball win. The 2021-22 team’s group chat, his mother, Kelly, said, is just as active as ever.

Flagg can be reserved at times, but there’s nothing that puts a smile on his face more than being at home. The Nokomis gym and the faces in it, he noted, were the reminder of big moments such as championships and the little (yet no less memorable) ones such as bus rides and team dinners. 

He relishes that even more now that he doesn’t have the chance to do it every day. It’s one of the few times he’s been able to come back to Maine since going to Montverde, which is in the midst of somewhat of a lull schedule-wise after completing its regular season a month ago.


AUGUSTA, MAINE – FEBRUARY 25, 2022 Nokomis High SchoolÕs Cooper Flagg (32) scores with authority against Brewer High SchoolÕs in the boys Class A North finals game at the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday, February 26, 2022. (Staff Photo by Michael G. Seamans/Staff Photographer) Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Going a month between games hasn’t, though, meant Flagg hasn’t been busy. Montverde is currently preparing for GEICO Nationals, an eight-team tournament that will pit the Eagles against eight of the other top prep teams in the country. It’s a practice regiment, he said, that’s known as “boot camp.”

“There are some tough practices, but I’ve just come to realize that that’s just something that’s going to help us in the long run,” Flagg said. “It’s really about grinding and working harder to get better every day. That’s what really matters, and if you’re getting better, it’s all worth it.”

He knows Maine is behind him in that journey. Flagg, in his own words, feels he “hasn’t played exceptionally well all season.” That might sound ludicrous coming from someone who was named a Naismith High School All-American second-teamer and the Team USA Men’s Player of the Year, but such is the standard to which Flagg holds himself.

There was one stretch of play, though, in which Flagg felt otherwise about his game this season: mid-January’s Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts. With that tournament somewhat closer to home, many friends and family members were in attendance — and his elevated play, he told the crowd, didn’t feel like a coincidence.

“There were 150 people that I recognized in the stands the whole time,” Flagg said. “I think I had my best game of the year that night, and I think that’s because of the community support that was there lifting me up. … I think that’s a core memory that I’m always going to hold onto.”

The scenes of family and friends in the stands, of course, aren’t as common for Flagg now that his games are in Massachusetts, Indiana, Arizona and the like rather than in Newport, Skowhegan, Augusta or Brewer. He knows, though, that he’s still a source of inspiration for thousands back home.

“It’s great to know that I have so many people in Maine still supporting me,” Flagg said. “I have to give a shoutout to all of them for still watching me and cheering me on from here on out.”

Yes, Maine is still watching — and as long as Cooper Flagg is doing Cooper Flagg things, that watching won’t stop.

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