When he arrived at Syracuse University, Trevor Cooney brought with him a very big reputation as a shooter.
Despite spending his first season in Jim Boeheim‘s program sitting on the bench as a redshirt, reports frequently came out of practice that he simply could not miss. Even assistant coach and former All-Big East performer Gerry McNamara, who knows a thing or two about knocking down 3-pointers, called Cooney one of the best shooters he’s ever seen.
It was only natural, then, that Syracuse fans expected the redshirt freshman to fill it up in mass quantities last season, and that make it much more disappointing when he failed to live up to his reputation as a 3-point specialist.
The 6-foot-4 inch Cooney showed flashes, but never really got any sort of rhythm coming off the bench to spell Brandon Triche at the shooting guard position, finishing the season while knocking down a dismal 26.7 percent from deep. To put that in perspective, recent NBA Lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams, whose most obvious weakness is his poor shooting, made 29.2 percent of his attempts from long range.
This season, both Triche and Carter-Williams are gone, and Cooney is in line to start alongside freshman point guard Tyler Ennis in the Orange backcourt. Considering the team’s best sharpshooter, James Southerland, is also gone, that leaves a pretty glaring hole for the Orange to overcome this season.
C.J. Fair is the team’s top returning 3-point shooter in terms of percentages, having knocked down 46.9 percent from deep but on just 64 attempts. After Fair, there are a lot of question marks about where the perimeter shooting will come from.
That’s where Cooney comes in. Watching the sophomore play last year, it was clear that he has good form on his release, but it became readily apparent that he was thinking too much about his shot and the mechanics and often seemed to be trying to get too much lift on his jumpers, leading to a lot of bad misses. If Cooney can get his head screwed on right and his confidence back, he could be a lethal perimeter player.
As it stands, he’s very strong at 195 pounds and is an underrated athlete who is not afraid to mix it up and get on the floor. But where Boeheim needs him most is hanging around the 3-point arc, because just like last season, 3-point shooting could be a major issue.
Ennis is going to shoot better than Carter-Williams, but will likely be inconsistent. Duke transfer Michael Gbinije, who will get minutes at all three wing positions, is still very much an unknown but shows signs of being able to extend the defense with the occasional triple.
Cooney certainly has the tools, and Boeheim will surely give him the green light to chuck it from deep and keep right on chucking. Syracuse fans are hoping that knowing he won’t be yanked after a bad shot will bolster his confidence and help him settle down and become the marksman he was supposed to be coming out of high school.