By Calli Townsend
Hunter Soper just graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School as one of the most accomplished male athletes in school history — and he’s still not done.
Last week, he celebrated his graduation along with an awards ceremony where he was named the Male Athlete of the Year, followed by signing his National Letter of Intent to continue his basketball career on Saturday, May 15. The 6’6 forward will attend Lake Superior State University in the fall, where he will compete as an NCAA Division II athlete a part of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“My goals were to try to get a big scholarship to play Division II, and to just have a season this year. That’s all I wanted,” Soper said. “I just wanted to make the most of it.”
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In a year full of obstacles and reasons to give up, Soper and his teammates did just the opposite. They went on to win the school’s first boy’s basketball regional title, and Soper set a few individual records along the way too.
“The basketball season went really well,” Soper said. “It came off a hard Covid year and we didn’t want to end on a ‘What if?’ again. The game sucked that we lost against Ferndale. It was in double overtime, I’ll never forget it, but I’d rather have closure like that than what happened last year.”
Soper left the Cros-Lex basketball program as the all-time leading scorer with 1,101 career points. He also set the record for most career rebounds and blocks with more than 700 rebounds and 135 blocks. He averaged 16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
“He certainly earned it. He has the God-given abilities, he was fortunate to get his dad’s size, but he did a lot to earn that. He was always one of the first ones to practice and the last one to leave,” Cros-Lex varsity basketball head coach Lance Campbell said. “He’s the first Cros-Lex basketball player to play Division II basketball.”
Not only did Soper earn a spot on a Division II team, but he also received a full ride scholarship.
“The majority of my recruiting was smaller schools from NAIA and Division III, but I just wanted to play at a higher level,” Soper said. “Toward the end of the season, Lake Superior State came along and really recruited me heavily. I went on a visit and I just kinda fell in love with it. They gave me a full ride, so you can’t really beat it.”
Beyond the scholarship, however, Soper said he appreciates the team atmosphere and is looking forward to stepping on the court with his fellow Lakers.
“It’s going to be different being away from home. The city itself felt like a mix of Port Huron and Lexington,” Soper said. “I liked the coaching staff. I hung out with the players when I went up and stayed the night and they were just very welcoming. It seemed like I could fit in really well. It was more like a family.”
This summer he will head to the U.P. for a training camp in June, and then return a week before school starts for some individual workouts. This will give him time to prepare for a big upcoming season.
“I sat down with the coach and he told me that I was going to have a big role to step into and I could have a lot of playing time as a freshman,” Soper said. “If you want to go somewhere, you want to play, so that’s always nice.”
Soper will be filling an important role on an already successful team, as LSSU won two conference titles in the last eight years. Fortunately for Soper, he’s used to the pressure.
“We did really well in basketball, and we’re one of the top teams in the state for baseball now too. It just goes to show this group of guys we have is phenomenal,” Soper said. “We all get together so well, it showed on and off the court. Everything we do we strive be the best at it.”
As he finishes out his last season in a Pioneer uniform, Soper and his team have their eyes set on another regional title.
“We’re looking forward to baseball,” Soper said. “We’re first in the league right now and are highly ranked in the state and we’re hoping to make a good run in the tournament.”