Potential 2025 No. 1 Draft pick Cooper Flagg steals the show among Team USA stars

Initially awestruck by the likes of LeBron James, Cooper Flagg quickly showed why he’s the likely top pick in next year’s Draft.

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LAS VEGAS — One of the better players on the floor in Monday’s Team USA scrimmage moved easily, floated to the basket multiple times, took future Hall of Famers off the dribble for dunks, hit a few stepback 3-pointers.

He fit in.

Oh, we should mention: He’s 17.

Cooper Flagg was one of a dozen players on a select team whose sole job the past two days was to give Team USA a solid workout and make these Olympians sweat.

What separated him from his teammates was pretty obvious — only he was a month removed from his high school prom and graduation line.

Also, if the 2025 Draft were held tomorrow, the young, flexible forward would likely be the No. 1 pick.

What he got in the process was the experience of a young lifetime. What the NBA-dominant folks who gathered for the workouts got was another page in the scouting report on someone who might lead the next generation of American-born stars.

“He’s a special young man,” said Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley, who coached the select team. “His talent level, his basketball IQ, his level of toughness, not afraid of those moments, protect the rim, make the right play, make the right read. He had all that.”

And he’ll take all that to Duke this fall as a freshman, where he’s projected to stay for one year. And that was before he suited up in Vegas.

At 6-foot-8 with outside touch and the ability to attack the rim as well, Flagg has been highly-ranked since he started high school in Maine.

He played against professionals and college players before, mainly during summers, although this journey to Vegas was clearly a step up. His parents watched the three-day scrimmages from the stands, and his father, Ralph, admitted his son was starstruck.

Who wouldn’t be?

“The first time he stepped on the floor, he looked up and was guarding LeBron James and he was like, ‘OK, I guess we’re going to start doing this.’ This opportunity, it’s crazy,” Ralph Flagg said.

The wonderment only lasted for a few moments, his son said.

“At first, you walk into this gym, see all these players and yeah, it’s like, wow,” he said. “But then the ball goes up and it’s just basketball. I’m just trying to win. I’m a competitor, that’s what it boils down to.

“I’m confident in my ability and skill. I know who I am and what I can do.”

He nearly led the select team to a win in the final moments of a tight game with a few baskets, mainly because his teammates — all young NBA players — deferred to him. That was a sign of respect.

On one late sequence, he elevated for a 3-pointer over Anthony Davis — who blocked one of Flagg’s shots Sunday, sending the teenager to the floor — then followed up seconds later with a putback, plus the foul.

He took over the scrimmage.

“You see what he did?” Mosley said.

Everyone did. And the Olympians told him as much after the buzzer.

“He wants to be great,” Devin Booker said.

Flagg accepted any and all tips.

“It was just an honor to come out here and compete,” Flagg said. “Every one of them reached out to me. They’ve all been very welcoming. Told me to keep working and stay confident.”

USA Basketball sent invites to a handful of players for the select team: Detroit’s Jalen Duren, Brandon Miller of Charlotte, Miami’s Jaime Jaquez and Trayce Jackson-Davis of Golden State, among others.

The idea was twofold: To give the Olympians enough outside competition before they begin intrasquad work on Wednesday, and to perhaps groom young players who could fill out Team USA rosters of the future.

“It was great just being back in the gym for this level of high quality competition,” Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr. said. “This allowed me to work on my game, get better, come back stronger next season.”

Assuming he continues to grow and adapt to the physical demands of the game, Flagg will be a candidate for the next FIBA World Cup team. And beyond that, who knows? Maybe more scrimmages like those of the last three days, except he could be on the other bench.

“He’s a sponge,” Mosley said. “The first couple days was about what he needs to improve on, both offensively and defensively. He had the benefit of getting NBA coaching and advice from NBA players. It was only for a few days but it’s something he can take with him.”

Ralph Flagg went a step further about his son:

“Going into the season at Duke, after something like this, he’s got to be saying, ‘Well, I know I can play with these (NBA) guys.’ He’ll go back to campus and reset and be ready for what’s next.”

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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