During his first media day in 2011-12 Trevor Cooney was the odd man out to both reporters and teammates stuck behind future NBA stars Dion Waiters and Michael Carter-Williams and senior Scoop Jardine on the depth chart, resulting in him redshirting as a true freshman.
At this year’s media day last Friday Cooney attracted the most attention from the press as his outlook for himself and the team in 2014-15 is as goal oriented as ever.
The Wilmington, Delaware native is coming off his best season in Orange. He tied an SU sophomore record with 90 three-pointers in 2013-14 and had a career-high 33 points against Notre Dame including nine threes against the Irish, tying a Syracuse record.
But as good as Cooney was from beyond the ark through the first half of the season(50% from three thru 1/4/14) he was equally as disappointing down the stretch for Syracuse. He shot just 29% from three thru the team’s last 22 games including 1-6 from downtown in the Orange’s 55-53 loss to the University of Dayton in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the departure of floor leader Tyler Ennis, forward Jarami Grant, and senior C.J. Fair the spotlight will be on Cooney more than ever this season as a young Orange team will look to him as a leader on and off the court.
In terms of expanding his game Cooney has improved not only the consistency of his shot, but also his game off the dribble a facet of his level of play that will not only open up his game, but his teammates as well.
“I think Trevor’s worked real hard, he’s obviously a great shooter, but he’s doing other things now,” Head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We need him to be a bit more versatile on offense and put the ball on the floor a little more.”
Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara, who had to make a similar transition to his game once Carmelo Anthony left after their 2003 championship run, knows that his shooting prowess will be his main advantage in expanding his offensive game.
“Your eyes are your weapon when your a shooter and your ability to raise defenders is very, very important,” McNamara said. “Great shooters can make themselves incredibly faster off the bounce if they use it the proper way. That’s something we tried to expand on over the summer and certainly over the last few weeks of practice.”
With all the added pressure that comes from being more of a leader this upcoming season it’s only lifted the motivation Cooney has had in preparation of the 2014-15 year. From getting up at 6a.m. over the summer for workouts or having that determined look on his face even during a scrimmage at Orange Madness, the sharp shooter is looking to define himself in other ways going into his redshirt junior campaign.
“That’s what I’ve been working on this summer, going off the dribble a little more. Whatever the defense does you have to do the opposite,” Cooney said. “I’m just looking to create a little more and if I can do that it will open up my three more and shots for my teammates as well.”
Being a leader on and off the court may be the biggest asset Cooney will bring to this young Syracuse team. With freshman standouts Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough poised to play large roles for the Orange this year, upper class leadership will play a big role in their progression.
“It was the same last year with guys like Ennis looking to me[for leadership],” Cooney said. “I took that role on last year and it’s going to prepare me for this year.”
A leader doesn’t always have to be the loudest voice in the room and that goes hand in hand with leading through action. Cooney’s tireless work ethic and extra confidence this season is what helps motivate teammates.
“Trevor hasn’t been the most vocal guy since he’s been here, but he’s earned the right to be a leader because of how hard he’s worked,” McNamara said. “When you set the table of what it takes to be successful, guys buy in.”
Cooney’s teammates have witnessed that work ethic first hand throughout the summer and weeks leading up to their first game on November 2nd against Carleton.
“He’s just been so motivated in practice,” walk-on Carter Sanderson said. “He’s in the gym all the time and he’s just so dedicated to winning this year and taking his game to the next level.”
That next level is what all Orange hope will help lead this year’s team to a run similar to it’s 25 game-winning streak during last season, but this time maybe the end result for Cooney and the Orange will a little better.