Athlete of Week: Colton Kooima, Roosevelt
Through six games, Colton Kooima is swishing buckets, and contributing to the Roosevelt Rough Riders on the big stage in Class AA boys basketball.
The senior exploded for two huge games early on. First, at the Mike Miller Classic, Kooima hit 6-of-10 three-pointers and scored 26 points against Flora McDonald (North Carolina). Two weeks later, he dropped 31 points, including 23 of them in the second half against Rapid City Central in a winning effort.
Kooima isn't taking for granted his opportunities as a starter this year. After coming off the bench last year, he is flourishing in his new role, and showing opponents he is a big asset for the Riders.
"Last year I came off the bench and all I did was shoot three's. That was my role last year, but this offseason, I really worked hard on getting to basket and on pull-up jumpers."
Head coach Lee Taylor has seen Kooima grow immensely over the last year, and his game has shown that he is a big weapon for Roosevelt.
"He's always a threat to score and that's something as a basketball coach you always want. He can knock down shots and score points in a hurry. At all times, you have to know where he's at. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
Aside from being a scorer, perhaps his best quality is his leadership ability. Taylor describes Kooima as a player that brings great effort each game and confidence to his teammates.
"He's a strong leader because he's such a high competitor. He's learning when he's not having his best games, he still has to encourage and not worry about his game, but about his teammates on the floor because they are just as important as he is."
Last summer, the senior guard teamed up with another senior player to become a better leader. As a result, Kooima hopes the rest of the team is buying into their hard work to pursue their goal as a team to cut down the nets in March.
"Chris Phillips and I really worked hard this offseason to kind of set an example for the team and show them how hard you really have to work to win a state championship."
Last year, the Riders fell short in the semifinals of the AA Boys State Tournament. To go out on top as a senior, and win a championship this year, it would mean everything, says Kooima.
"It would mean a lot. High school has been fun, but that's the only thing (a state championship) that could make high school better."
Kooima developed his love for the game at a young age from his dad, and started playing organized basketball in the fourth grade.
"My dad was a coach all through when I was growing up. He coached high school basketball and showed me the game. I went to all the practices and that's where i learned how to play."
Kooima's favorite athlete is Kobe Bryant, and loves watching the Los Angeles Lakers and North Carolina Tar Heels. In school, he enjoys studying math. He hopes to pursue basketball or golf after graduating high school in the spring.