Photo: AP/Joe Raymond
There are many factors that go into the development of a basketball player, but one that often gets overlooked is the “fit” between a player, school, teammates and coach. When all of these areas sync together, you have access for growth in many different ways, both as a player and as a person. For Jack Cooley, he found that fit at Notre Dame, and what has transpired 4 years later has been a pleasure to watch for all basketball fans.
The result of this fit helped Cooley improve in many areas during his time in South Bend. “I definitely grew into a better leader; someone my teammates could rely on,” said Cooley. “I also became a much more confident basketball player, and I believe one of the better offensive big men in the country.”
Early on in Cooley’s career, it was hard not hear comments made by many about his resemblance to teammate, and future NBA Draft pick, Luke Harangody. To Cooley though, there was more to it than that. “I learned a lot from Luke during my time playing with him,” explained Cooley. “I learned a lot about how to handle pressure, and going against him in practice definitely made me a better player and eased the transition to college basketball.”
Playing in the Big East was also a vital part of Cooley’s development as a basketball player. “Just the talent and physicality of playing there, you just couldn’t beat it,” said Cooley. “The whole thing can be summed up in the atmosphere of the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. Every team bringing their best so they can win it all.”
Cooley knows his work is cut out for him over these next couple of months, but he is confident in what he has already shown. “I’m known mostly for my rebounding and intensity, and my ability to play team defense” Cooley said. “What a lot of people may not have noticed is my ability to be very efficient on the offensive end. I can do a lot more than people may think.”
There are differences in the game at the NBA level, and Cooley is looking forward to stepping up parts of his game to adjust. “I need to work on guarding the pick-and-roll on the defensive end, especially because of its high usage at the NBA level,” explained Cooley. “I just want to spend time polishing up all parts of my game.”
Cooley had his first chance at seeing what’s ahead by taking part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament a few weeks ago. “I was so happy to get the chance to play against so many other very good players,” Cooley said. “It’s a real help to take part in Portsmouth because this is going to be a whole new process and experience for me. The Portsmouth tournament is a great introduction to that process.”
While everyone wants to play a major role at the next level, there are a lot of different roles to be filled. Cooley has a good idea of how he can be a help right away. “I can definitely go out there as a hustle guy, and just give good minutes whenever I can,” said Cooley. “I can bring intensity, play hard, and go out and grab some rebounds.”
Before we finished talking, I had to ask Cooley about his recent engagement to his girlfriend at the Notre Dame Basketball end of the season banquet, video of which made the rounds on Twitter moments afterward due to a teammate. “I can’t believe it went so smoothly,” Cooley joked. “She had no idea and I had to spend so much time sneaking around trying to plan this all out.”
With Cooley ready to embark on new challenges in different parts of his life, one thing he is sure of is how he can help his next team. “I will go out there and bring it every possession and look to do what’s best for my team. I am a hard worker and I think a lot of teams will be pleasantly surprised by what I can do.”
Hopefully, the next great “fit” in Jack Cooley’s life will be found in the NBA.
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