The expectations surrounding Trevor Cooney’s arrival to Syracuse University from outside the basketball program were bordering on the second coming of Gerry McNamara. Similar builds, similar skill sets…hopefully, similar results.
Right out of the gate, Cooney was surely no McNamara. G-Mac used his freshman year to round up a cult following and build up quite the resume of clutch moments, including six 3-pointers in the NCAA championship game. Meanwhile, Cooney had to work out several kinks and his claim to fame in the NCAA Tournament was taking the final shot in the Final Four loss to Michigan that was never intended to be in his hands.
In the two seasons since, Cooney has upped his production to become a solid double-digit scorer and a No. 2 or No. 3 option. However, he has never had a field goal percentage above 40 percent and only once has he had a 3-point percentage above 30 percent.
To be clear, McNamara wasn’t exactly a high-percentage shooter himself. He, like Cooney, was more of a high-volume shooter. Just keep feeding him the ball and more times than not, eventually he would get into a rhythm. Classic shooter’s mentalities for both.
Overall, here are some numbers from each of their first three seasons at SU:
McNamara: 15.4 PPG, 38% FG, 36% 3-pt, 88% FT, 4.4 APG, 35.7 MPG
Cooney: 9.2 PPG, 37% FG, 33% 3-pt, 79% FT, 1.2 APG, 25.8 MPG
Across the board, McNamara takes the cake. Again, though, that’s not to say Cooney isn’t a productive and valuable piece to the Syracuse puzzle.
But can Cooney get to G-Mac’s level or is what we see what we get with him?
Cooney’s scoring output jumped from 12.1 points in his sophomore season to 13.4 in his junior year. Last season, he led the team in minutes at over 37 per game and took 76 more shots than any returning player on this season’s squad. The opportunity and volume will be there.
The problem has been his inefficiencies. Improving his percentages, even just a little, would bump up his productivity significantly:
- Taking last season’s field goal percentage of 35.9 and improving it to 40 percent would have resulted in 15 more baskets
- Taking last season’s 3-point percentage of 30.9 and improving it to 35 percent would have given him nine more 3-pointers
- Improving last season’s 76 percent free throw success to 85 percent would have given him eight more makes
With some simple improvements in efficiency, Cooney could have averaged an extra point or two per game given the same number of shots.
But again, can he get to that point?
In three seasons, there hasn’t been that consistent threat from Cooney. Last season, he had five games of 20 or more points and seven games of eight points or less. In comparison, McNamara’s senior season resulted in 10 games of 20 or more points and seven games of eight points or less… twice as many superlative games and the same amount of subpar games.
McNamara had a flair for the dramatic. When a big shot was needed, the team looked for him and he delivered. Under the eye test, it seems Syracuse looks for Cooney in the same situations, yet he does not rise the occasion as much.
In seven games against ranked opponents last season, Cooney shot 34-for-101 (33.6 percent) from the field and 15-for-59 (25.4 percent).
It’s tough to pinpoint a reason as to why Cooney has not had more improvement. His form is good. By all accounts, he puts the work in during practice. He doesn’t lack confidence. If there is such a thing, it almost seems like he tries too hard, which is hardly something for which you can fault a guy. He wants to be out there every minute of every game and coach Jim Boeheim is usually happy to oblige.
Maybe a drop in minutes will allow for fresher legs and more lift in those legs when he needs it most. But in most seasons, Cooney is the only true 3-point threat on the floor for the Orange, allowing for opposing defense to key on him. Maybe Gbinije can take some of that on his shoulders as the main weapon on offense. Maybe Malachi Richardson can come in and contribute right away from beyond the arc. Any help for Cooney would be beneficial to giving him more open looks, perhaps leading to more makes.
Can Cooney do the extra things to make himself a 16- or 17-point per game scorer? Maybe. Is it likely? Probably not. Based on his resume, he is a fairly known quantity. Solid numbers, but maybe just leaving Syracuse fans asking for just a bit more.
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