Paul Boyd is a sports reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was voted Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2018.
Confident Cosper enjoying last run
NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER IArkansas senior Devin Cosper battled tragedy and adversity during her junior season, including the death of her sister, Sierra, but has came back with a strong senior season.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Devin Cosper's having fun again.
The 5-10 senior has been a key ingredient in helping the Arkansas women's basketball team get off to an 8-4 start.
At a glance
Notable Has played in 41 consecutive games. … Earned career highs in points in a game (25), field goals made (9), three-pointers made (6) and rebounds (14) this season.
Grambling State at Arkansas
WHEN 7 p.m.
WHERE Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Grambling State 3-7; Arkansas 8-4
SERIES Arkansas leads 7-0.
RADIO KABZ-FM 103.7 in Little Rock; KQSM-FM 92.1 in Fayetteville; KFPW-AM 1230 and KFPW-FM 94.5 in Fort Smith; KURM-AM 790 and KURM-FM 100.3 in Rogers.
TELEVISION SEC Network Plus
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
COACH Mike Neighbors (8-4 in first season at Arkansas)
COACH Freddie Murray (3-7 in first season at Grambling State)
58.6^Points Scored Per Game^69.8
68.1^Points Allowed Per Game^65.2
32.5^Rebounds Per Game^42.2
17.6^Turnovers Per Game^11.4
.240^3-pt FG pct.^.282
CHALK TALK Junior guard Malica Monk leads Arkansas in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per game. … The Razorbacks rank fourth in the nation, averaging just 11.4 turnovers per game, but that number was driven up after committing 23 in a loss at Arizona State. … Arkansas also ranks 11th in the country with 340 3-point shot attempts. … Grambling State has lost four games in a row and is led by 5-7 junior guard Shakyla Hall, who averags a team-best 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Hill is from Little Rock and attended Hall High School.
Cosper ranks second on the team in scoring (16.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.7 rebounds per game) as the Razorbacks prepare for their final nonconference game of the season against Grambling State, which tips off at 7 tonight at Walton Arena.
She has more than doubled her scoring (6.4) and rebounding (2.2) average from last season.
"I just think people are starting to see the real Devin," Cosper said. "I don't have a lot of the worries that I've had in the past."
The Coffeyville, Kan., native endured strife on and off the basketball court that led to -- by her own admission -- a subpar junior season. Cosper dealt with the death of her sister, Sierra, prior to the season opener, and she also suffered a concussion.
Arkansas Coach Mike Neighbors, who's in his first season at his alma mater, has seen Cosper's confidence grow.
"I think she's a kid that didn't know some things she was capable of," Neighbors said. "I think the renewed confidence from a coaching standpoint has allowed her to really blossom."
Cosper's older sibling died after battling multiple sclerosis for more than 12 years.
"It was tough. She finally ended up succumbing to that," Cosper said. "I was able to get over my concussion and finally had that peace of mind that my sister wasn't hurting anymore. So after that kinda left my head, I was just able to focus on basketball, which still wasn't great for me either. It was just something I had to deal with."
One thing Cosper did not lose focus on was her education. She graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in journalism and is pursuing a master's in sports administration.
Cosper attended her hometown Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College for a year because she didn't get many scholarship offers out of high school. Cosper was the lone freshman in the country to earn All-America honors, and Division I offers flooded in. That's when she decided to sign with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville rather than return for a second year at Coffeyville.
She came home to Kansas last summer and worked with her former assistant coach Stephen Harrel, who is now the head coach at Coffeyville, in July. They worked specifically on improving her three-point shot.
Cosper's previous career-high of 25 three-pointers came in 30 games during her sophomore season. She equaled that total in only seven games this year and has a team-high 33. She's also posted five double-doubles this season.
Cosper acknowledged she was thinking of transferring, which she could do by NCAA rules as a graduate student without sitting out a year. Neighbors said after his first meeting with Cosper, he was convinced she was gone.
He's happy she decided to stay. Neighbors has watched her blossom into not only a great player but an outstanding leader.
"From talking to her, it's the confidence I have in her to make plays and be a go-to kid and not worry if she misses her first two or three," Neighbors said. "I've told her, 'Shoot the next three when you feel good about it.' She doesn't look over her shoulder and worry about coming out.
"I think the confidence in herself and I think the coaching staff and her teammates have in her have been big. The leadership in the locker room, the leadership on the bus, going to the airports and in the hotels, that's something that every coach hopes to have, and I'm lucky to have it in a kid that I've known for such a short period of time."
Cosper said Neighbors has backed up his talk.
"All a player really wants is to be appreciated," Cosper said. "I got that feeling from him and I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm definitely staying.' He's so encouraging in the fact that he trusts me and believes in me as a player, and you want that from your coaches."
Arkansas senior Devin Cosper battled tragedy and adversity during her junior season, including the death of her sister, Sierra, but has came back with a strong senior season.
Sports on 12/28/2017
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