2017-03-21 / Front Page

Neese headed to Final Four shootout

by Michael Stanley
Reporter


Cloverdale’s Cooper Neese connects from beyond the three-point arc during the Clovers’ 2017 Class 2A Sectional 44 Championship. (SEW File Photo) Cloverdale’s Cooper Neese connects from beyond the three-point arc during the Clovers’ 2017 Class 2A Sectional 44 Championship. (SEW File Photo) A spring break detour was scheduled into Cooper Neese’s plans Thursday after the sharpshooting Cloverdale Clover finished with 58 percent of an online vote to participate in the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships.

Neese was watching Thursday night when his future Butler Bulldog teammates defeated Winthrop in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, 76-64. With the winning vote tally, Neese now has his first chance to represent the Bulldogs.

“To get to the final round is unbelievable, but to win it, I’m just at a loss for words. It’s been so special every step of the way, not just with this contest, but since I was a freshman. This whole community has been behind me and not just this community, people from around, family and long lost friends I have in other states,” he said by phone Friday. “Just to know you have people like that by your side and behind you is special. It’s every little kid’s dream”

He tallied 2,495 career points in a Cloverdale uniform, of which 1,092 came from his 364 shots from beyond the threepoint arc.

“I want to go out there and have fun, but I also want to represent Cloverdale, the community, Butler and the Butler community as well as I possibly can. I’m going to do everything in my power to win it, I’m going to try not to upset with a bad performance. I’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Cloverdale’s all-time leading scorer says he hasn’t competed in a three-point shootout since his grade school days, but relishes in the opportunity to make his mark on the biggest stage of his career, to date anyway. I’ve been in a couple, no where near as big as this. Playing in AAU we had a thing in fifth and sixth grade at the Gym Rat Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne. I got second my fifth grade year and won it my sixth grade year, so those have been the only two I’ve ever been in,” he explained. “It’s a huge stage, I’ve played on big stages before, but this is about as big as it gets.”

Neese was selected as one of 16 outstanding student-athletes from across the United States, winning his first round match-up by a tally of 67 percent to 33 percent. He edged through the second round with 51 percent of the vote, narrowly won the semi-finals with 50.24 percent and ran away in the championship.

Neese told the AFI DreamFearlessly organizers that he dreams to play in the NBA and to become a positive role model for kids. The 6’3” guard, though, has already achieved the latter.

“I just want to thank everybody for their continued support, it means everything to me, not just me, but my family as well,” he added. “It made my mom tear up just seeing me get to the final, it did the same to me, so I just want to thank everybody.”

The American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championships will be aired during the NCAA Final 4 in Phoenix, Arizona on CBS from 3:30 until 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 2.

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