Trevor Cooney torching nets, Syracuse opponents

When Trevor Cooney, and his in-the-gym range from beyond the arc, first committed to play for Syracuse in February 2010, the comparisons were obvious and expected: Former Orange legend, and current assistant coach, Gerry McNamara. Cooney hadn’t even graduated from high school and was already being anointed as the next great Syracuse sharp-shooter.

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Cooney has dramatically improved

The Delaware native was part of a recruiting class that included current junior Rakeem Christmas and Michael-Carter Williams, who’s now earning a paycheck from the Philadelphia 76ers. When those three arrived on campus, Cooney found himself on the short end of a numbers, or in this case, minutes game.

Jim Boeheim’s backcourt for the 2011-2012 season was already loaded with the return of Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, and Dion Waiters. Carter-Williams, the McDonald’s All-American and the crown jewel of the three-man class, joined the returning trio of guards to form a monster rotation that could beat teams in a variety of ways, let alone depth.

» Related: Full-court press allows Syracuse to rout Binghamton

The Orange played in 37 games that season, falling to Ohio State in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Due to the swarm of talent possessed by Jardine, Triche, and Waiters, Carter-Williams only managed to play in 26 of those games. Faced with the real possibility of only seeing the court for a handful of garbage time minutes here and there, Cooney redshirted.

After the Ohio State loss, Waiters declared for the NBA Draft in which he was selected fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a senior, Jardine’s eligibility was exhausted. That left Triche and Carter-Williams as the pending starters the year after with Cooney joining the rotation as the third guard and instant-offense from the bench much like Waiters provided. The redshirt year allowed Cooney to adjust to college while hitting the weight room to build up his body for the rigors of Big East play.

When Cooney finally was able to hit the floor, his freshman season didn’t exactly turn out as fans thought it would. He averaged only 11 minutes of action. Part of that was due to how well Triche and Carter-Williams, standing 6’4” and 6’6” respectively, played the top of the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense. When Cooney did receive some run, he had difficulty generating offense, especially with his 3-point shot. He converted a dismal 26.7 percent (28-of-105) of his triples. Fans pondered the existence of his vaunted jump shot.

Heading into this season, SU’s backcourt was as big a question mark as it had been in years. With Carter-Williams in the NBA and Triche cashing a paycheck in Italy, Boeheim would have two new starting guards. The heirs presumably were Cooney at shooting guard and prized freshman Tyler Ennis running the point. Both players have thrived. Especially Cooney.

The sophomore exploded out of the gate in a season-opening 82-60 win over Cornell with 27 points in 28 minutes. He was 10-of-12 from the floor including an astounding 7-of-8 on 3s. He chipped in on defense with a team-high four steals too. Through his first four games he sank 10-of-22 of his three-point shots. The next question to be answered was could he show the same consistency against better competition?

» Related: Cooney continues dramatic improvement against Binghamton

In winning the Maui Invitational, Syracuse defeated Minnesota, Cal and No. 18 Baylor. The Orange hosted Indiana in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge in its first game back from Hawaii. Cooney was brilliant in all four contests scoring 70 points and knocking down 16-of-33 (48 percent) of his threes. He made five 3-pointers in three of those four games. He also chipped in ten assists and nine steals. Including Syracuse’s most recent win against Binghamton, Cooney has converted five 3-pointers in four of his last five games.

Syracuse stands 9-0 and currently ranked No. 2 on the season. Cooney’s play has been a huge part of the team’s success. The Orange’s out-of-conference slate still includes two games against former Big East foes, at St. John’s and vs. Villanova. Then the real fun begins. A home-and-home with Duke and a visit from North Carolina highlight its inaugural ACC schedule. The competition will continue to get tougher. Syracuse will need Cooney’s scoring punch.

There’s an old adage that the best things in life are worth waiting for. Trevor Cooney, and his 3-point shot, are living proof.

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About Steve Auger

Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.
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