The decision to attend Rhode Island was made rather quickly by Hillhouse running back Harold Cooper.
Cooper’s first official visit of the recruiting season was to Rhode Island last month. While on campus, Cooper gave the school his oral commitment, and then proceeded to cancel visits to the University of Maine and Central Connecticut State, two schools which were also interested.
“After that, I just knew that this was my place, this is where I needed to be,” Cooper said. “Rhode Island is a great place. Coach (Jim) Fleming is a great coach; he thinks highly of me right now.”
Cooper was one of four New Haven athletes who took part in a signing day ceremony Thursday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center. In addition to Cooper, Wilbur Cross offensive lineman Jaelin Robinson signed with Temple, as did Career’s Tanaya Atkinson, who will play basketball for the Owls. Cross’ Shea Connor is headed to St. John’s for soccer.
A four-year varsity starter, Cooper finished his career with 6,661 yards and 99 touchdowns. He helped lead the Academics to Class M titles in 2010 and 2012. Cooper, who also excels on special teams, said the Rhode Island coaching staff intends to play him as a freshman.
“If I come in and do what I need to do, I have a chance to play right away,” Cooper said. “They like my speed; they like me for kick returns, punt returns.”
Unlike Cooper, who began his football career at age nine, Robinson’s senior season with the Governors was the first time he ever played the sport. Robinson, known more for his prowess on the basketball court, admitted he didn’t envision playing football at the next level.
“I’m very excited,” Robinson said. “I didn’t think it was possible, but I am ready to embark on this wonderful journey. I’m ready and excited for it.”
Although Robinson is still developing as a football player, he has the potential to have a successful college career mainly because of his size (6 feet 8, 305 pounds).
“The upside potential is so huge,” Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said. “That’s the attractive part about him. He needs to learn football and actually be around people that care about him personally. I think the Temple guys believe in that. Temple believes that his potential is unlimited.”
Also Thursday, West Haven held a signing day ceremony for running back Ervin Philips, who signed to play at Syracuse. Philips chose Syracuse over Temple and Utah. Philips tallied career marks of 4,596 rushing yards, 88 touchdowns and 6,182 total yards, all school records.
“The coaching staff is great, I just fell in love with the coaching staff,” Philips said. “A lot of the other schools wanted to move me to the defensive side, but at Syracuse it was my choice. Them giving me that choice, I really liked. And what they want to do with me, by playing running back and as a receiver out of the slot, is what I see myself doing in college.”