Cooks signs basketball letter with UTSA

By Steve Sell
November 14, 2017
Shane Backhus

Maybe, just maybe, McPherson High senior Mandi Cooks will get back on the basketball court before the season is over and display the talent that impressed the University of Texas-San Antonio so much that it signed her to an NCAA Division I letter of intent on Monday.

Cooks, a 6-1 post player, signed before family and friends during a ceremony in the MHS Little Theatre. UTSA is the same school where former McPherson High star Steve Henson is the head coach of the men’s team.

“It’s great, it was so overwhelming,” said Cooks, who suffered a complete tear of her Achilles over the summer and is working hard in rehab to try and come back before the season is over as the Bullpups hope to make the Class 4A Division I state title game again this year. “I was freaking out about it so much, especially after I got injured.”

What impressed Cooks was that UTSA recruited her after her injury, whereas some schools’ interest waned.  

“The team and the atmosphere,” Cooks said as the main reasons she signed with the Roadrunners. “They took me out and brought me to a mall. They sang me the fight song and they were dancing. I said, ‘that’s what I wanted.’ I wanted this atmosphere.”

UTSA was 14-16 last year and is 1-1 so far this season. Kristen Holt has taken over as head coach this season.

“I really like her. She’s really cool,” Cooks said.

Cooks injured her Achilles on July 11 while playing in a basketball tournament in Texas. While the initial thought was that she would miss the entire season, her determination has pushed up her timetable to the point where she could have a chance to play in February and then in the postseason in March.

Cooks admits she wishes the process would speed up even more.

“It’s going slow,” she said. “Very slow. Right now they’re looking at the end of January when I’ll be back. I’m just happy I’m walking. I’m actually able to get on the elliptical and able to start moving more. I’m doing more body weight squats, all of that stuff. It’s actually ahead of schedule.”

She’s also doing some light shooting, but added she can’t run yet and do any shuffling drills. “It’s just standing-in-place shooting,” she said. “I can walk around the Roundhouse and do just push-ups and upper-body workouts.”

Cooks was an All-State and AVCTL Division III selection her junior year as she averaged 13 points a game along with 6 rebounds. She was especially strong on the offensive glass as she actually had more offensive rebounds than defensive rebounds. She shot 51 percent from the field and 70 percent from the line.

Cooks is a rare three-sport star. She was All-State in volleyball as a junior before her injury forced her to miss her senior year. As a sophomore she was the Class 4A state high jump champion, which assures her of being on the MHS Wall of Fame in December of 2018 when she’s eligible for induction. She had a knee injury this past spring that forced her to miss most of the track and field season.

Cooks said she’ll stay involved on the bench during games until she’s able to play again. She said she hopes to give tips to the MHS post players who will be filling in during her absence as she’s accrued a lot of wisdom since she’s been a Bullpup mainstay since her freshman year.

“I hope I can help them a lot, especially on defense,” she said.

“We are very excited for Mandi, as signing with a Division I program has been a long-time goal for her,” MHS coach Chris Strathman said. “She has put in a lot of time over the years to reach that goal, so it is great to see all of her hard work pay off.  I think it is great that she still had a few offers to choose from, even though she suffered a significant injury in the offseason.  Teams and coaches that have seen her play really like the energy she can bring to the floor, and also her athleticism and skill-set.  Hopefully Mandi can have an outstanding four years at UTSA. I think that is the right level for her to take that next step to college basketball.”

Cooks plans to major in business marketing as she wants to be a publicist in a big city. “San Antonio is perfect,” she said with her ever-present smile.

Here are Cooks’ accomplishments:

• 2014-15 •

• AVCTL Volleyball League Champions

• Volleyball Sub-State Champions

• 4A Div. 1 Volleyball 3rd-place state finish

• AVCTL Basketball league Champions

• AVCTL 1st team All-League basketball

• 4A Honorable Mention All-State basketball

• AVCTL Track League Champions

• 3-sport letterwinner

• International Club

• 2015-16 •

• AVCTL Volleyball League Champions

• Volleyball Sub-State Champions

• 4A Div. 1 Volleyball State runner-up

• AVCTL 2nd team All-League

• AVCTL Basketball league champions

• Basketball sub-state champions

• AVCTL 1st team All-League

• 4A 2nd team All-State

• 4A Regional Track High jump champion

• 4A State track high jump champion

• 3-Sport letterwinner

• KAY Club


• 2016-17 •

• AVCTL Volleyball Tied League champions

• Volleyball Sub-state champions

• AVCTL 1st team All-League

• 4A Honorable Mention All-State volleyball

• Newton All-Tournament team

• AVCTL basketball league champions

• Basketball sub-state champions

• 4A Div 1 State runner-up in Basketball

• 4A Div 1 All-State tournament team

• AVCTL 1st team All-League

4A 1st team All-League

3 Sport Letterwinner