SHAWNEE — Taylor Cooper is sticking with Oral Roberts after all.
Cooper, who signed with the Golden Eagles in November, was beginning to rethink her commitment to the school after women's basketball coach Jerry Finkbeiner left to take the Utah State job last week.
The Shawnee senior, who helped lead the Wolves to an unbeaten season and the Class 5A state championship in March, picked the Golden Eagles over offers from bigger schools.
Oral Roberts won 20 games for the third straight season in 2011-12, and with players such as former Adair star Kevi Luper returning — and Jenni Bryan transferring in from Oklahoma State — the future looked bright for the program.
But if Cooper would have decided to ask for a release from her letter of intent, it could have been a big blow to ORU.
That's why ORU assistant Misti Cussen drove to Shawnee on Wednesday to persuade Cooper to hang with the Golden Eagles. Cooper and Cussen have developed a close relationship throughout the recruiting process.
Cussen spent three hours in the Cooper home, essentially re-recruiting her, but the 5-foot-11 Cooper made clear what it would take for her to stick around.
She told Cussen that if she wasn't named the next ORU head coach, she would go elsewhere.
Cussen has been a Finkbeiner disciple since 1996, when she assisted him on the Southern Nazarene staff. Coaches were essential in Cooper's initial decision to sign with ORU; she said in March that they “reminded me of my parents.”
After Friday's announcement that Cussen would take over the program, Cooper still took the weekend to make up her mind. But Sunday, she made the decision to honor her original letter of intent and play for the Golden Eagles.
The news has to be pleasing to Cussen, a former high school basketball star at El Reno. With Cooper being ORU's only high school signee for 2012, Finkbeiner and Co. certainly seemed intent on building the future of their program around her.
Now, with a coach hired, years of momentum and lots of talent, Cussen still can.