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Rising sophomore Farrall came to Culver Academy by way of Valparaiso

LA PORTE -- Two promising athletic careers last intersected in eighth grade when Cooper Farrall and Mason Jones squared off on the basketball court in Valparaiso. It will likely take sectional titles by their respective high schools this season for them to cross competitive paths again, at least as far as prep sports goes.

"It was always a great competition going against each other," said Farrall, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Valparaiso who plays for Culver Academy. "I love Mason. He was my go-to guy back in middle school. We were cross-town rivals. He's super talented, super big. He's doing great things."

Farrall attended Ben Franklin, while the 6-6 Jones went to Thomas Jefferson. In eighth grade, the crowd for the matchup between TJ and BF rivaled a good high school game.

"I distinctly remember it," Farrall said. "Everybody was there. He went off for like 25, I went off for like 20. TJ won by six. I still think about it."

While there may have been visions of grandeur by some in Valpo about the pair teaming up in high school, it was largely known that it likely wouldn't happen. Greg Farrall attended Culver Academy on his way to IU, where he was a star linebacker for Bill Mallory's Hoosiers. His 22 sacks between 1988 and 1991 still rank fifth on the school's career list and his eight sacks in '89 and '91 also stand in the top 10 for an individual season. Cooper's sisters also attended Culver Academy.

Culver Academy sophomore Cooper Farrall attended Valparaiso schools through eighth grade and his family still lives there. (Photo by Jay Anglin)

"I was going to Culver (Academy) football games and basketball games at a young age," Cooper said.

Valpo High School coach Barak Coolman didn't take it for granted, yet never got his hopes too high about Farrall being a Viking.

"The hand writing was definitely on the wall," Coolman said. "I knew there was a really good chance he would end up going to Culver. I still was going to do my due diligence to develop a a relationship with him and his family, but that was definitely the underlying elephant in the room. Cooper's an outstanding young man. You could see as a seventh- and eighth-grader that he was very talented. I definitely enjoyed watching him play and the getting to know the family. It was sad to see him leave, but hey were really honest with us, and when the decision was made, it was handled well by all parties."

In contrast, Eagles coach Mark Galloway was thrilled to see Farrall arrive in Culver. Farrall led the JV in scoring as a freshman and with the team graduating plenty of talent, including Galloway's son Trey, now at IU, he has stepped into a starting role this season. He had his best game to date Saturday with 19 points in a 46-38 win over La Porte, showing his range with a couple dunks as well as 3s.

"We're so happy to have him, and to see how much better he's getting," Galloway said. "He had a nice game. He's struggled the first two games, but you can see how capable he is physically. He's a sophomore, so as the game starts to slow down, he's going to be really, really good. He's got a high ceiling, there's no doubt. We put him inside more, he got a little confidence, and he can also shoot it from the outside."

Like many sophomores who make the transition to varsity, Farrall has seen that it's a big step.

"This was really nice for me," he said. "There's a lot for me to get to understand and see throughout the season. I've struggled the past two games, in practice. We're working on a lot of new things right now, but I'm feeling pretty confident in myself and my teammates."

With Culver Academy already on holiday break and the Eagles not scheduled to play again until Jan. 15, Farrall will be back home for the holidays in Valpo, where he may even get to see Jones and the Vikings play.

"Going to Culver, once you get here, you spend so much time with the team, you don't really have the time," he said. "I stay in touch with a few of those guys and I'm definitely going to connect with them over break. (Mason and I) have never been on the same team. He's a great player. I'd love to have the opportunity to play with him. Obviously, I think about it and say, oh wow, that would've been great for that team, but once you get here, you focus on the present. There's no looking back."

Both boys' talents aren't limited to basketball. Jones started for the Vikings in football this season and Farrall, also a defensive lineman, is the heir-apparent at quarterback for the Eagles.

"With the running, the conditioning, the eye-hand coordination, there isn't another sport that develops athletes any more than high-level basketball," Coolman said. "There's so much cross-training. We ask them to do so many different things. They're gifted athletes. We would've had a pretty good group with those guys. As a coach and a community, we would have loved to have him come to Valpo. It's always a little bittersweet to think he could have been in the green and white and been a part of something special here, too, but I totally understand and respect that and hope it works out."

Cooper Farrall, right, of Valparaiso, a Culver Academy sophomore, had 19 points Saturday against La Porte. (Photo by Jay Anglin)

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