Syracuse Basketball: What's Driving Trevor Cooney's Breakout Start in 2013-14?

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Syracuse Basketball: What's Driving Trevor Cooney's Breakout Start in 2013-14?
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Trevor Cooney lay motionless on the court.

A hard foul by Indiana’s Austin Etherington sent Cooney flying into the base of the basket assembly after the Syracuse guard stole the ball from Jeremy Hollowell and broke away for a transition basket.

The desperation foul got Etherington ejected and a wobbly Cooney bounced back up almost as fast as he went down.

It would be hard to blame Etherington for his actions. Midway through the second half, Syracuse led a disoriented Indiana team 54-36, fueled by 18 points by Cooney up to that point.

After composing himself with the clock frozen at 9:19, Cooney sunk point No. 19 from the free-throw line just as calmly as he sank the five three-pointers that broke the will of the Hoosiers. Cooney missed his next attempt, but stayed in the game.

Less than two minutes later, Cooney would get another shot at the break away.

Cooney’s zone-mate, Tyler Ennis, stole the ball from Yogi Ferrell and got the ball to Cooney.

Cooney would not be denied as he went up for a two-handed dunk that put a stamp on a fine game by the formerly maligned red shirt sophomore. Cooney finished with a game-leading 21 points and four steals as the Orange cruised to a 69-52 victory in their inaugural Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Flash back to nine months ago against these same Hoosiers in the Sweet Sixteen.

In a game Syracuse dominated, one steal and one turnover in four minutes of play were the only evidence Cooney was in the arena that night.

With players such as Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, there wasn’t much room for Cooney to show off his talents. Known as one of the all-time great practice shooters, Cooney found it difficult as a freshman to establish any type of flow. He was in the game for one reason and that was to shoot the ball.

It just didn’t always work out.

Competing for outside shots with sharpshooter James Southerland proved to be a bit more daunting than Cooney was able to handle. He shot an abysmal .267 percentage from beyond the arc for the season in a little more than 11 minutes per game.

What a difference a summer makes.

Cooney spent the summer working on his conditioning and working on his game, and the proof is in the pudding.

In just eight games, Cooney is just two three-pointers away from matching the amount he sank the entire previous season. Last season, Cooney made 28 of his 105 attempts.

This season, he’s already made 26-of-55 (.473) and is playing almost 30 minutes per game.

Coming into this season, Cooney was the Orange’s biggest question mark. Everyone, including his teammates and coaches, knew he was a dazzling shooter, but with added minutes and no other outside presence on the Syracuse roster, his transition into an outside weapon was in doubt based on the previous season’s output.

Cooney’s opening game against Cornell on Nov. 8 dispelled any rumors of his demise.

A 27-point performance, which included 7-of-8 from downtown, sent out notice to the NCAA that you can’t spell Trevor without T.R.E.

His effort earned him the season’s first ACC Player of the Week Award and revealed that Syracuse would not be the forward-dominated team that it was rumored to be, but a finely tuned engine with talent throughout the court.

There’s no telling what’s different inside Cooney’s head other than he has shown a sniper’s confidence for the duration of this early season. What is telling are the adjustments Cooney has made in his play.

Most obvious is Cooney’s quick release. He has displayed an ability to get his feet set and fire away shots expeditiously, which is a vast improvement over last season when he tended to force shots.

Another aspect of Cooney’s transformation is his court positioning.

No longer does he hover around the three-point line waiting for an outlet pass like a pick-up game gunner. He is active and slashes to the basket. He draws defenders into mismatches to free up his teammates and recognizes when an open shot can be created by identifying poor defensive positioning.

The season is still young and the ACC season is yet to begin, but at the quarter pole, Trevor Cooney is establishing himself as a player opposing teams must prepare for, rather than a player who can be dismissed as a chucker.

Cooney has developed into the type of player opposing teams love to hate. A scrappy guard who fights for every ball and breaks their backs with three-point precision, which is probably what inspired Etherington’s vicious hit.

But while he may not have known his own name for a moment after crashing into the basket structure, the Indiana Hoosiers certainly knew.

The name’s Cooney. Trevor Cooney.

 

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