Cooper Flagg Puts Basketball World On Notice In Game Vs. Team USA

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The star-studded Team USA held an exhibition ahead of the Paris Olympics on Monday when it played a game against the US select team.

When the scrimmage wrapped, there was little talk about LeBron James, Anthony Edwards or anyone else headed to France later this month. The lion’s share of the attention was on a star in the making.

Cooper Flagg, who has yet to even play a college game in his young basketball career, more than held his own against the world’s best. In fact, one NBA head coach on hand for the session said the 17-year-old “kicked butt” in Las Vegas.

This wasn’t the first time Flagg commanded national attention. All eyes were on the Maine native last fall when he revealed his plan to play for the Duke Blue Devils this season. But as NESN’s Travis Thomas explained on the latest episode of “Hold My Banner,” the showing against Team USA separated Flagg from the rest of the up-and-comers.

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“We’ve seen this over the years in sports — when you have a “child prodigy,” Thomas said. “Cooper Flagg has all of those mental traits you need to check those boxes. It would be normal for a 17-year-old with his gifts physically to come in and maybe mentally be a little bit nervous. No one would knock him for that. Be a little intimidated by the moment. ‘Oh, man. I’m going 1-on-1 with Devin Booker. I’m going 1-on-1 with Anthony Davis.’ Guys that he grew up idolizing, now he’s going against.

“So if he struggled at all, or reports came out like, ‘Mentally, you know, he needs more time,’ we wouldn’t bat an eye. We’d say, ‘Yeah, that Cooper Flagg is going to be great at some point. Good for him getting that experience.’ He’s not just getting the experience, folks. He’s going at these players. All of them are saying the same thing. ‘This guy is an assassin. He was coming at me.’ That’s the difference. That’s the difference between being a prodigy and a pretty good young prospect. Cooper Flagg is a prodigy.”

Flagg’s performance against American Olympians — and his body of work in Durham this fall — very well could impact how a handful of NBA teams approach the upcoming season. We could see blatant “tank” situations across the league in the 2024-25 campaign, similar to the impact Victor Wembanyama had on the NBA two seasons ago.

You can listen to the full episode of “Hold My Banner” by clicking the link here.

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