BOYS BASKETBALL: Original Titans Cooper, Lewis bring ‘whole lot of fire’ to alma mater Memorial

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kenneth Coleman found the types of assistants he was looking for when he accepted Port Arthur Memorial’s boys basketball coaching job in August 2015.

Antonio Cooper and Alden Lewis fit the bill just right.

“They were part of the Lincoln program, and they were in the first Memorial class,” Coleman said. “So, it was huge. They brought tradition with them. I know how they feel about the community, about Port Arthur and about the basketball program. I knew I was going to get two young guys with a whole lot of fire.”

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The former Lincoln and Memorial teammates were part of Memorial’s first senior class in 2003 and formed the first backcourt duo under coach David Green. Lewis was the point guard, and Cooper the shooting guard when fellow athletes Jamaal Charles and Inika McPherson were sophomores.

“It’s phenomenal to be on the staff with one of my classmates,” said Cooper, 33, a fourth-year Port Arthur ISD coach who also leads Memorial’s junior varsity team. “We grew up together and played basketball together. So, to come back and raise these kids the way we were raised is awesome.”

Fifteen years later, the two original Titans are part of school history again. The 2017-18 Titans broke a school record Monday with their 28th win of the season against Barbers Hill in Channelview, surpassing the mark set a year ago.

“It’s a pleasure to come back and give back to the city, especially as an assistant coach, so I enjoy that every day,” said Lewis, also 33 and in his eighth season coaching in the Port Arthur ISD. “Just to see the kids’ growth from the years I’ve been here and the growth of the program is extremely good. I like the direction that we’re headed, and it’s only bigger things from here.”

Lewis and Cooper are long reunited with two of their mentors from their playing days in Coleman and fellow assistant Dwight Scypion. Coleman, who was active in coaching summer-league basketball before joining the Memorial staff in 2004, helped the 2003 seniors make the connection through life and basketball, according to Lewis.

“This is my third coach that I’ve worked with,” Lewis said. Coleman then reminded Lewis how important his leadership has been.

“The very best head coach, let me add that,” Lewis corrected himself, sharing a laugh with his co-workers. “He’s been doing a tremendous job taking the program to another level, and we’re doing a great job as a staff as well.”

The addition of former Ozen head coach Marquis Saveat to the staff last summer has given Memorial “a double of Coleman,” Cooper said.

“He sees a lot of things we don’t see, and it makes for a big gumbo pot,” he added. “Everybody has their niche. Once you put it all together, you’ve got a good meal on your plate.”

Winners of 20 straight, the 5A fourth-ranked Titans (28-5) will take on No. 15 Alvin Shadow Creek (22-6) at 7 p.m. Friday at La Porte High School. The winner will face either Humble or Texas City in the 5A Region III quarterfinals.

“I’m looking at it going one game at a time,” Lewis said, asked about nerves as a coach. “The unfortunate part is, if we lose, that’ll be it, but we don’t plan on losing. … You’ve got to give it your all and go all in at this particular time.”

Said Cooper: “As [Coleman] tells us, the power is in the now. If we live in that moment and live in the now, we’ll be OK.”

Memorial’s style of play in 2018 has given the Titans opportunities for more possessions created by stifling full- and half-court defenses, which has been the common goal between Lewis’ and Cooper’s playing days and today’s team.

“The important thing is getting as many consecutive possessions as you can,” he said. “We like to get it out, get it out fast, take the first available best shot you can. The more possessions, the better off you are.”

Given his age, Cooper has found common ground with today’s Titans in communicating with them on and off the court.

“It’s kind of easier to talk to them,” he said. “We understand their language more, and they understand our language more. In this day and age, it’s all about social media and things like that. It’s easier for us to cross paths and merge with that. … We complete each other as a staff, which is great.”

Cooper and Lewis went through a merger of high schools before the start of their senior year. As assistants at their alma mater, they’ve witnessed what Cooper calls the merger of Port Arthur pride, hence the words “Port Arthur” instead of “Memorial” on the team jerseys.

“That Port Arthur pride is unmatched,” Cooper said. “You see it in the community, you see it within each and every game, and we appreciate every family and every administrator who comes and watches us every game. We love it.”

Video of Alden Lewis and Antonio Cooper coaching in practice at

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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