NBA skills coach, Luke Cooper, talks about how he went from a career-ending injury to sharing his expertise to the top athletes in the game.
It was a spring morning in April of 2012 when high school sophomore Luke Cooper woke up with pain his left leg.
With practice following classes that day, Cooper was faced with a problem.
The doctors didn’t know what was causing the pain, but knew what type of pain it was. Cooper had to have surgery.
During the surgeries, doctors had to cut nerves in his leg which resulted in Cooper losing feeling in his leg. It was essentially a guessing game on which nerve was causing the pain.
This point guard’s dream was to play college basketball and take it from there. After going through five surgeries, Cooper’s dream wasn’t looking too realistic.
It was either to play the game or to coach it – at least that’s what Cooper thought, until he met Drew Hanlen.
Founder of Pure Sweat Basketball, Hanlen, took a trip to Harrisonville High School in Harrisonville, MO., where Cooper attended high school. Hanlen changed Cooper’s perspective on basketball forever.
“I remember one night at 10:22 pm, I was depressed about the injury. I told myself that I was done letting this control my life and my thoughts and I remember looking at the clock and telling myself from this point on, I won’t let this affect me, so I emailed twelve colleges asking to be a student assistant for their program and UMKC was the first to respond the next morning,” says Cooper.
Hanlen acted as a mentor to Cooper throughout the rest of his high school career and even asked Cooper to join his team to become a trainer for Pure Sweat. Drew introduced Cooper to a world of training athletes.
Hanlen guided Cooper and taught him all he needed to know to become an NBA trainer.
Cooper would have to save money to move to California, but he would have to do well in Kansas City first.
Cooper began training friends going into his freshman year of college, including Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer of Loyola University Chicago.
Cooper’s roster began to grow as his name became known throughout Kansas City.
Throughout Cooper’s college career, he held basketball training camps and one-on-one sessions with athletes. Cooper would help with footwork, shot accuracy and everything on-court related.
Cooper’s career dream began to open up again.
During the summer, Cooper would train his players six days a week, twice a day. During the season, he would travel wherever his clients lived and filmed them playing so they could work on any specifics they wanted to improve.
Shaquille Harrison of the Chicago Bulls knows Cooper on and off the court and has trained with him since they were friends in high school.
“Before I actually knew of a Luke Cooper, I knew a face of Luke Cooper, if that makes sense. Before I actually knew Cooper, he used to play basketball against my brothers. He was this small guard that was tough and I always liked him, but I never talked to him or even knew his name,” says Harrison.
Harrison met Cooper through his best friend, who gave Harrison the idea that it would be good to workout with Cooper while he was home from college.
At first, Cooper and Harrison’s relationship was rocky, and Harrison even said, “Cooper sometimes doesn’t have a filter and he says whatever he thinks whether you like it or not, so I had to adjust to that.” “He will get the invite to my wedding,” Harrison laughs.
During the season, Cooper flies out to Chicago once a month when Harrison has a nice home stretch. Cooper helps Harrison with shooting, new basketball moves, how to approach workouts, films, everything that involves basketball, Cooper is right there to help.
Zac Boster, a friend and coworker who trains alongside Cooper proudly says “he has a really big heart, such a personable guy.”
“Cooper pays attention to detail, studies film, caters his workouts specifically to how they have been performing in their games, so Cooper always wants to have a plan for his guys,” Boster says.
The duo met four years ago at a Pure Sweat retreat in St. Louis when Hanlen saw so much potential in these two young men, which was the beginning of an unbreakable friendship.
“At the time, Cooper and I were the youngest of the group but we kicked it off because we had similar philosophies” says Boster.
Since the retreat, Boster and Cooper have kept their friendship alive while working alongside one another.
“The guy has a big heart and an even greater personality, he really is in it for the players and their improvement, he is in it for the right reason” says Boster.
Boster and Harrison would agree that Cooper is in it for his players and not for himself.
From everything Cooper has gone through, not only did Hanlen believe in him, so did his friends and family and the love he had for the sport that gave him the career he has today.