Why Senior Season Is So Special For Seven Elite Recruits

Te'a Cooper can't wait for graduation day, but don't expect to see too many photos of her posing in her cap and gown.

"Graduation, oh my God," said Cooper, a 5-foot-8 senior guard at McEachern (Powder Springs, Georgia) and a University of Tennessee recruit. "I'm going to throw my cap as soon as they give it to me. I'm not even going to make it to three [on the countdown]."

But Cooper, the No. 19 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz recruiting rankings for the 2015 class, has a lot of things to cross off her to-do list before that big day.

And she's not alone.

Seven elite basketball recruits in the 2015 class explain what senior year means to them.

'I want to leave my mark'

De'Janae Boykin, a 6-2 forward at C.H. Flowers (Springdale, Maryland) and the 22nd-ranked prospect in the 2015 class, returned to school this year with a new outlook.

"It's my last year of high school, and I want to leave my mark," Boykin said. "I have a different attitude now than when I was younger. I'm more mature. I know people are looking up to me sportswise and schoolwise."

Boykin, a Connecticut recruit, said she is not letting herself get distracted by all the trappings of senior year.

"It's kind of crazy because people want to know why I don't hang around with this crowd or that crowd," she said.

"Some kids want to fit it, but I just walk by myself. I have a different mindset -- I'm focused on doing my best in school and getting everything done."

'A lot of the younger kids look up to me'

Jessica Shepard, a 6-4 forward at Fremont (Nebraska) and the third-ranked prospect in the 2015 class, can't wait to get to college. She has long been committed to Nebraska and is eager to be tested at a higher level.

"It feels like senior year took forever to get here, especially since I committed so early," Shepard said. "Now that senior year is here, it's my last chance for high school basketball, and I want to make the most of it."

This will be the first year that Shepard gets to play high school basketball with her sister, Sam, a freshman.

Shepard said she feels that she has Sam's respect, but it's more than just her sister who will be following her lead.

"This season should be a lot of fun," Shepard said. "I think -- especially in my community -- a lot of the younger kids look up to me.

"[But] I don't feel extra pressure because I'm just being who I am. I already have high expectations about how I carry myself."

Among Shepard's goals this year are straight A's and a second state title.

"I'm just looking forward to basketball season the most," she said. "All those other things [prom, graduation] will be fun. But basketball will be the most fun for me."

'I'm trying not to make too much of a big deal about it'

Teniya Page, an undeclared 5-7 point guard at Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Illinois) and the 21st-ranked prospect in the 2015 class, remembers back to her freshman year.

She didn't necessarily look up to the seniors on that team in terms of basketball ability -- after all, Page was already a star on the court. But there were other lessons to be learned.

"There was one [senior] who kept me in line," Page said of Amber Williams, who is now a student at the University of Miami.

"If I didn't play well, I would be mad. Amber helped me control myself on the bench and during and after games."

Page said she now gets to show the way for the younger players who will look to her for leadership.

"I know that everything I do is a reflection on my teammates and the younger players -- even the freshmen who won't be on varsity but are still in the program," she said.

Many of her coaches and older former teammates have advised Page to enjoy her senior year.

"But I'm trying not to make too much of a big deal about it -- just keep playing," she said. "My personal goal this year is to be more of a vocal leader and go back to state with my team."

A big part of her senior year will be deciding on a college. Page is weighing offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue.

Beyond that, she has an academic goal of making the honor roll all four quarters.

Page said she realizes there will come a time when she feels sad about leaving high school.

"I don't feel that yet because the season hasn't even started," she said. "I know at some point I will be leaving behind some people that I've known since grade school.

"But, at the same time, it's a good thing. It's a sign that something good is coming at the next level."

'I have to prepare for college study life'

Faith Suggs, a 6-1 guard at Homewood-Flossmoor (Flossmoor, Illinois) and the No. 25 prospect in the 2015 class, said her main goal this year is to prepare for what she expects will be a difficult academic challenge at Duke.

"It's very important that I have a good senior year," Suggs said. "I want to get good grades -- A's and B's, especially A's.

"I have to prepare for college study life so I'm ready when I get on campus. I have to get mentally prepared for Duke."

Suggs said graduation day will be the culmination of all the hard work she has put in over the past four years -- on the court and off.

"You spend four years preparing for that moment when you graduate," she said. "This year will be my final building block before I get to college. "When I graduate, I know I will be happy, excited and proud."

'I want to go out with a bang'

Destinee Walker, an undeclared guard from Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, Florida) who is ranked 17th in the country, said she sees kids in school who are "coasting" during their senior year.

But that's not her.

Walker is taking Advanced Placement classes for the first time in her high school career, and she has also taken a number of recruiting trips, adding to her hectic schedule.

"It's been rough because I've missed lessons and school," she said. "I've had to catch up."

Walker is still trying to decide among seven schools: Duke, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Penn State and South Carolina.

Once she makes her decision, Walker believes life will get a lot easier.

"I'm learning a lot about time management this year, which will come in handy for college," she said. "I want to go out with a bang this year. I want to get all A's, take our team to state and become a McDonald's All American."

'I feel more responsibility'

Katie Lou Samuelson, a 6-3 wing at Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California) and the nation's top-ranked senior, said she's still in a state of shock that her senior year is here.

"I've always been the youngest in my family," said Samuelson, whose sisters, Bonnie and Karlie, play for Stanford. "I'm used to people telling me, 'You're only in the eighth grade' or 'You're only a freshman.'

"Now that I'm a senior, it feels weird. I feel old."

Samuelson, a Connecticut recruit, is hardly old, of course. But things are different this year. Mater Dei has a much younger team than usual.

"I feel more responsibility," Samuelson said. "We have freshmen who will be playing huge minutes. They are all great kids. All they want to do is get better, and they look to me for everything, from basketball to school work.

"But I don't feel it as pressure. I like it because I've never had a younger sister, and now I have several."

Before she leads her team on the court, Samuelson will have to get healthy. She injured her left ankle early in the summer and was never able to rest it and get it right.

That's the biggest thing on her mind right now. But she has other thoughts, too.

"I'm excited that I get to spend this last year of high school with my friends," she said. "I want to go to football games and all these dances. I want to be more involved this year."

'I want to be remembered for something great'

Te'a Cooper, the 5-8 guard at McEachern, said this will be a vital year in terms of her development.

"I want to be remembered for something great," she said. "I want to grow as a person because I'm about to be on my own in a minute."

One thing Cooper is looking forward to is Senior Night -- the final home game of the season. Each senior will be introduced over the loudspeaker, and their accomplishments will be broadcast.

"All the parents come out, and there will be catered food after the game," Cooper said. "The younger players bring the seniors a basket of flowers. And the announcer talks about all the great stuff you've done.

"This year, I will finally be the one who will get her name called. I can't wait."