SIMI VALLEY — Tawnee Cooper plays forward for the Simi Valley High girls' basketball team and may play guard when she gets to college.
But Royal Coach Mike Kohl has a different idea where Cooper should be playing.
"They ought to stop fooling around and just move her straight up to the U.S. Olympic team," Kohl said Thursday after Cooper scored a career-high 40 points in a 79-51 Marmonte League victory at Royal.
In her first game against Royal since transferring from the school last spring, the 5-foot-9 junior made 13 of 17 shots, grabbed 13 rebounds and added three steals.
If she was nervous about facing her former teammates, she certainly didn't show it. In the first four minutes, Cooper scored 10 points to lead the Pioneers (14-3, 4-1 in league play) to a 12-2 advantage.
"I wasn't nervous," said Cooper. "I was more pumped than anything. I get nervous for chemistry tests."
Cooper has been the key ingredient at Simi Valley. She is averaging 17.7 points, but that pales in comparison to what she has done in tough Marmonte League play.
Cooper, who led Ventura County in scoring as a sophomore last season at Royal, established a career best with a 33-point effort last week against Camarillo. Her 40-point effort against the Highlanders (3-12, 0-5) gives her a 24-point league average.
"She's indeed one of the best players ever to have played at Simi Valley," said Simi Valley Coach Dave Murphy of Cooper, who faced a box-and-one defense throughout most of the game.
The offensive display proved too much for Royal, which was paced by Jennie Broadhurst's 16 points and Theresa Rough's 12.
Cooper scored 19 points and had six rebounds in the first half despite sitting out nearly four minutes because of foul trouble.
As for her suggested placement on the Olympic team, Cooper said it might have to wait.
"It's flattering and I'd like to do that some day, but that's a little ways off," she said.