Jackson Kotecki and Mekhi Cooper both feel that there is a well-detailed plan laid out before them. That trust provided to them by the Miami RedHawks coaching staff is what led the pair to both commit within days of each other to the Division I men’s basketball program in Oxford, Ohio.
Cooper, a 5-10 Class of 2023 guard for Bolingbrook, and Kotecki, a 6-9 Class of 2023 forward for St. Ignatius, both cited a vision shown to them by the Miami coaches in their recruiting visits. Kotecki said he bonded with the Miami coaches more than any other staff.
“I enjoyed every second of it,” Kotecki said of his visit. “The coaches’ plan for me, they physically gave me …a spreadsheet thing of how they’re going to develop me. They showed me the plan. It wasn’t like they were just saying it so that they gave me confidence that they’re really going to help develop me as a player.”
Cooper said that he believes he’ll develop well under Steele’s tutelage.
“It feels great to have made a decision the biggest factors (for) me were the coaching staff from Miami showed so much love and support during the recruiting process and got to build a strong relationship,” Cooper said. “I also loved coach Steele(‘s) focus on player development and how much he believes and trust me.”
The pair are familiar with one another, having played together before for travel club Mac Irvin Fire.
“I’m really excited man,” Kotecki said. “Mekhi was my man on the Fire and to be going to college together is awesome.”
“I know Jackson well, we (played) together one year of AAU, so that felt good to team up with him again,” Cooper said.
PG Mekhi Cooper (@Mekhii21) is in contact with Miami (OH), Eastern Illinois, SIUE, Chattanooga, Milwaukee, Cal State Fullerton, and Tulsa, he's told me.— jake lieberman (@jakelieberman2) July 28, 2022
Cooper holds offers from Chicago State, Howard, Missouri State, Eastern Illinois, SIUE, Cal Poly, & Cal State Fullerton.
Kotecki is plenty confident in his growing offensive skills, but is aware teams came calling when they saw his defensive capabilities guarding players all over the floor.
“They (Miami) really wanted me and wanted to build their team around having tall, versatile guys, guys that can play multiple positions, not just one position,” Kantecki said. “That was something I was looking for in a program.”
Kotecki picked up his first offer in June and admitted it was stressful to see so many players around him picking up offers before him. He had confidence in his own abilities, but wasn’t seeing the interest from coaches he expected.
“You see all your friends that you play with getting offers and you’re like, ‘why am I not getting offers?’ And that starts going through your mind,” Kotecki said. “Just knowing from experience and having to play through that was tough, but I just had to power through that and I did and it worked out.”
The big man said that his coaches, from Matt Monroe with the Wolfpack, to his Fundamental U coaches, gave him the confidence to grow this summer. It proved to be the needed growth for colleges to come clamoring.
“To go out there and play with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder and be like ‘yeah, I am better than most of these kids that are ranked higher than me and just trying to not worry about that,’” Kotecki said. “Just going out and whoever is put in front of me I’m going to lock them up and I’m going to go as hard as I can through the whole game.”
Both state semifinalists a year ago, (Bolingbrook in 4A and St. Ignatius in 3A), the pair, both verbal commits, bring a winning pedigree to coach Travis Steele’s first recruiting class at the helm of the RedHawks. The RedHawks already have Illinois ties.
Deerfield graduate Jackson Kenyon is a rising senior on the roster. Senior guard Will Stevens is a Chicago native. Sophomore Bryson Tatum is an Urbana graduate. Steele was also once a men’s basketball assistant at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel.
Cooper, a standout at the Ridgewood Shootout this summer, put much on display in his game that leads writers like yours truly to believe he will quickly be college-ready. Coach Robert Brost’s Raiders do tend to churn out college-ready players with remarkable consistency.
“This year I really want to get bigger and stronger and this season I’m hoping to get back downstate and get a ring,” Cooper said.
“I know we’ll be able to get back down to state,” Kotecki said. “I have the confidence in our guys. Even though we have a younger team, we lost a lot of seniors, I know the younger guys are going to be able to step up. We’re going to be able to get back down to where we were and hopefully further.”