Irvine High School junior Cooper Stearns has a dream: to lead the Vaqueros basketball team to its first CIF playoffs in nine years.
“That’s my main goal,” says the 6-4 center who was named first-team all-league last year, averaging 22 points and 14.8 rebounds a game. “If we make the playoffs, we are going to be a dangerous team for the division we’re in.”
A dual-sport standout, Stearns also leads the Vaqueros boys golf team and has been named the league MVP the past two years.
How does this season look for the basketball team?
So far, it’s looking great. We’re working more as a team, and our offense looks better. We’re playing confidently, and we’re hungry to win since we fell short of the CIF playoffs last year.
What’s your role on the team?
I have to score efficiently and get buckets when they’re open. Most importantly, my role is leadership and rebounding, especially when we play smaller teams because I can just go and crash the offensive glass.
How important are the CIF playoffs to you?
Hopefully we can go far and make a name for this school that hasn’t had a name really for the past decade. As long as we have a chance to hang a CIF banner, that’s all I really care about.
You’re also a standout golfer. How do the sports compare?
I love the team aspect of basketball. It’s so competitive and loud, and you have people to help you. You can make a mistake and get it back on defense. In golf, it’s just you out there. You make one mistake and, most of the time, your qualifying round is done.
We’re working more as a team, and our offense looks better. We’re playing confidently, and we’re hungry to win. – Cooper Stearns
Which sport will you pursue in college?
If I could play basketball in a Division 1 program, I would take that, but most likely I think it’ll be golf. I’ve done well these past couple of years, and I’m working with my coach this off-season, which I haven’t done before.
What Irvine courses do you play?
Our high school team plays at Oak Creek Golf Club, a pretty fun course, and Strawberry Farms, as well. Rancho San Joaquin is pretty good, too.
What is your handicap?
It fluctuates, but it’s about a zero to plus 1 right now. My best score in a tournament was 4 under par, and I shot 5 under one time.
Highlights from last summer?
I qualified for the California Amateur Championship, which is a huge tournament for a junior to play in. I also qualified for the Southern California Amateur, another huge tournament, and I birdied four of my last six holes, which was really special.