Te'a Cooper played just one year for the Baylor Lady Bears, but made a major impact for the team in that season. The grad transfer — who started her college career at Tennessee before transferring to South Carolina and then, finally, to Baylor — averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 41.5 percent from three. She was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was on the All Big-12 first team.
Cooper brought the Lady Bears another ball-handler and 3-point shooter, helping to diversify the team's offensive approach, which came in handy in some of Baylor's tougher matchups. Against UConn, for instance, Cooper scored 27 points on 8-for-19 shooting, going 4-for-11 from deep with five assists and six rebounds.
The 5-foot-8 guard has been getting considerable buzz ahead of the 2020 WNBA Draft, with mocks having her going anywhere from the mid first to the early second round. Teams could use a combo guard like Cooper, and while it's notoriously tough to crack the final, 12-player roster of a WNBA team, Cooper's skillset should help her stick on someone's roster.
What Te'a Cooper Can Bring At The Next Level
One of the biggest things that changed with Cooper's game in her final collegiate season was her emergence as a three-point shooting threat. After a pair of seasons with a 3-point shooting percentage under 30 percent, Cooper's Baylor tenure saw her take huge strides in that part of her game, hitting 41.5 percent of her treys on 4.5 attempts per game.
That's a big enough sample for us to think that Cooper finding her shot wasn't an anomaly, and I think a big part of that improvement is attributed to the role she played for the Lady Bears.
Cooper's usage rate this year was 23 percent. At South Carolina, it was 28.1 percent. At Tennessee, it 26.3 percent. Lower usage. Higher efficiency. Seems like there's a connection there.
One thing that can sharpen the discussion of the changes from South Carolina to Baylor for Cooper is the increased percentage of her shots that were pure catch-and-shoot, no-dribble looks. At SC, only half of Cooper's spot up looks came in the form of no-dribble jumpers, with a quarter of those plays seeing her drive to the basket and 12.5 percent resulting in turnovers.
This year, 84.5 percent of her spot up possessions ended in a no-dribble jumper, and just eight of those possessions were logged as plays that turned into drives to the basket. She also turned the ball over only 3.4 percent of the time.
Basically, Cooper seemed to be a lot more comfortable taking threes, and that comfort paid off in the form of a huge increase in efficiency.
While Cooper developed a lot as a point guard this past year, I think she'll mostly be a two-guard at the next level, which should give her plenty of chances to do the same kind of things she did as a Lady Bear, which is to say that if she ends up on a good offensive team like she did when she transferred to Baylor, she should be able to function as a tertiary offensive threat, someone who can get loose for the corner three and heat things up.
Of course, to say she'll "mostly" be a two ignores that Cooper's a good passer and dribbler. She was extremely good in transition this past season, and having her and another ball-handler out on the floor running up and down — kind of like Baylor had with her and Juicy Landrum this past season — opens up a lot of possibilities offensively. She can attack as a transition ball-handler, or she can run the wing and knock down a catch-and-shoot transition three.
Cooper struggled at a couple of things offensively last year, and those are worth discussing. First, her ability to finish at the basket wasn't great, with her scoring in the 21st percentile on shots around the basket. Cooper's not going to make her living at the next level near the basket, which — of course — puts extra emphasis on her ability to keep her 3-point shooting up to the same level it was at this year.
The other potential issue is that Cooper's scoring off pick-and-rolls was pretty middle of the pack. She shot just 30.8 percent off dribble-jumpers out of pick-and-rolls, and was actually a fair bit more efficient when taking it to the basket off those plays than when she pulled up. Cooper's catch-and-shoot jumper took a huge leap this year, but she's still got to perfect her dribble-jumper.
Defensively, Cooper had a solid season. I've said repeatedly when looking at tracking data that Synergy's defensive numbers need to be taken with a grain or two of salt, but for what it's worth, they have players guarded by Cooper shooting 28.5 percent from the field this past season. She does a good job getting steals, and while Cooper's never going to be the kind of guard who gets in there and blocks shots or switches into the post to defend bigs, she can stick with and bother her matchup. She weirdly struggled when her defender went right this season, especially when she was guarding in pick-and-rolls, but overall, Cooper's going to be a positive on that end of the floor, and that's another thing that should help her make a team's roster.
Cooper's name continues to come up in the late first round/early second in mock drafts, and High Post Hoops's Howard Megdal has her going at 14 to Indiana in his latest mock. Megdal's spoken to a lot of scouts and evaluators, and while the nature of drafts is that anything can happen, Cooper landing on a team like Indiana would be good, as there's a clear path to her being their third guard. Cooper won't be a WNBA starter right off the bat, but her ability to handle the rock and hit those open looks mean that she'd be a great sixth woman off a team's bench, someone who can sub in at either guard spot and help ignite an offense.