NCAAW: Zia Cooke key to dominant SC Gamecocks, eyes WNBA

the South Carolina Gamecocks (15-0, 3-0 SEC) They acquired off to a clear begin to the 2022-23 NCAA season, making it by a troublesome non-conference schedule unscathed and carrying that success by beginning SEC play. The defending champions in all probability seemed extra spectacular than after they went 36-2 and received their second nationwide title. It is a well-oiled basketball machine that the remainder of the nation remains to be attempting to determine.

The Gamecocks’ latest success underneath head coach Daybreak Staley has been characterised largely by dominant bodily play, led by the 2023 presumptive No. 1 draft choose, Aliyah Boston middle. That is mirrored within the statistics. No group within the nation defends and recovers the ball like South Carolina, and the Gamecocks had been the favorites to efficiently defend their title within the month of March.

There’s extra to South Carolina than elite forecourt theater. nice guard Zia Prepare dinnerwho joined the Gamecocks together with Boston as a extremely regarded recruit in 2019, has been a staple of South Carolina’s beginning lineup since its first collegiate sport, thus making an affect on a program that has gone 108-8 general up to now three seasons.

Cooke, a 5-foot-9 product at Rogers Excessive College in Toledo, Ohio, rapidly developed a fame in South Carolina as a participant who by no means shrink back from catching arduous pictures and had a knack for stepping up in essential moments. As a senior, her sport has turn into more practical, which bodes properly not just for Gamecocks 2022-23 video games, however for Cooke as properly, as 2023 WNBA Draft inches nearer and nearer. Let’s check out what Prepare dinner means to South Carolina and why the WNBA may wish to draft her within the spring.


Honors and Statistics

Prepare dinner, who dedicated to South Carolina as a McDonald’s of America ESPN HoopGurlz The No. 4 general prospect (No. 1 level guard) within the 2019 recruiting class made a right away affect on the Gamecocks program, beginning in all 33 video games performed as a freshman. Prepare dinner averaged 12 factors per sport in her first season at South Carolina and Gamecocks led on each three-pointers (40) and free throws (79), incomes SEC All-Freshman honors alongside the way in which.

Since then, she has turn into an integral half of what’s arguably essentially the most profitable South Carolina program within the nation. As a beginning capturing guard for the Gamecocks, Cooke made the All-SEC group twice (2021 first group and 2022 second group) and earned All-America Honorable Point out nominations as a sophomore and junior. She was additionally named to the NCAA Last 4 All-Event Group twice (2021 and 2022), the latter honor earned in the course of the Gamecocks’ final nationwide championship.

On the worldwide stage, Cooke has been competing on American basketball Since 2015, when she participated in collegiate tryouts for the USA U-16 group. Since then, Prepare dinner has received two gold medals with Group USA: one in 2017 in the course of the FIBA ​​Beneath-16 Americas Championship and one other in 2018 in the course of the FIBA ​​Beneath-17 World Cup. Most lately, Cooke participated in group tryouts for the 2021 AmeriCup USA group which lasted Earn gold in Puerto Rico.

Prepare dinner’s scoring effectivity peaked throughout her senior season

South Carolina v. Maryland

Cooke was at all times in a position to attain the ring off the dribble, however as a senior she was extra selective in her assault, leading to a extra environment friendly particular person assault.
Picture by G Fiume/Getty Photographs

Whereas South Carolina has been a standout program underneath Staley for a few years now, in latest seasons the Gamecocks have overhauled their identification as a group to give attention to protection, rebounding, and paint management on each ends of the ground. Since 2019, it’s South Carolina Rank Be a minimum of No. 15 amongst Division 1 groups in factors allowed per 100 possessions (No. 2 in the course of the match final season) whereas a minimum of No. 4 (No. 1 final season) in complete bounce price (Its stats hop).

This, after all, is led by the group’s very bodily pitch, with Bostonians, Victoria Saxton, Leticia Amieher and Camila Cardoso giving the Gamecocks unparalleled measurement and depth up entrance. When Brea Beal’s perimeter protection is factored in, it turns into a nightmare for crafting an efficient offense in opposition to the Gamecocks, and whereas the group’s storied spacing tends to undergo from the sheer variety of gamers on its roster who excel beneath the free throw line, its general measurement usually makes up for the That by working arduous on the offensive glass.

The place as a high-octane ranger cook dinner Match for any such group constructing? She is usually tasked with saving the Gamecocks’ offense if she can not get the ball up the publish, often on 3-point pictures or lengthy soar pictures off the dribble. It isn’t at all times a glorified offensive position, and whereas Cooke is greater than able to catching these pictures—she led the Gamecocks in three-pointers made in two of her first three seasons with this system—she would not at all times lend itself to efficient particular person offensive numbers, although she is In concept it’s essential to stability an assault that depends closely on enjoying in a decrease place.

As a senior, Cooke’s position has been considerably improved, and he or she responded with one of the best offensive efficiency of her profession to this point. Whereas the addition of Keira Fletcher by the switch gate and the return of Raven Johnson from damage have boosted South Carolina’s guarding depth and eaten in Prepare dinner’s minutes (23.8), they shoot the ball at a better price than ever earlier than (20 subject aim makes an attempt per 40) minutes; 28.5 p.c utilization price), and the outcomes are promising: Prepare dinner’s 50.3 p.c efficient subject aim share is far larger than in years previous, and he is hitting the road extra, too, posting a career-high free throw common of 20 p.c.

Mixed along with his higher decision-making (1.45 help/turnover ratio—additionally a profession excessive), Cooke grew to become a participant the Gamecocks may reliably depend on to stability their heavy hitting method. Her offensive arsenal was on full show in South Carolina’s latest win over the… Georgia Bulldog: Opportunistic scores in transition, opening 3-pointers after transferring affected person at any time when the Bulldogs crumbled paint and drives underneath management that yielded 13 free throw makes an attempt.

Highlights: Prepare dinner scored a career-high 31 factors in opposition to Georgia

Once more, the context of the system during which Cooke performs issues. As a group that does not extensively characteristic selecting and rolling in its offense (based on Synergy Sports activities, 6.5 p.c of the Gamecocks’ possessions got here by way of catch ball handlers and rollrs, and only one.5 p.c by way of curler), South Carolina wants its guards to be extra selective of their offense and know How they make themselves accessible when frontcourt teammates draw additional defensive consideration. Cooke’s enchancment in these areas may very properly imply the distinction between low-scoring video games, low-scoring video games, and Gamecock victories.

Prepare dinner’s improvement additionally bodes properly for her as knowledgeable. There was by no means any doubt about her basketball talent and flexibility of her soar shot, and he or she can also be probably the greatest athletes in her place; The prospect of her enjoying a WNBA offense with a spaced flooring and developed guard expertise is intriguing, to say the least, and certain a significant purpose why the group took a swing at her within the 2023 WNBA Draft.

Watch her play

There isn’t any scarcity of nationally televised video games in the remainder of South Carolina Desk. On Sunday, the Gamecocks may have a sport Mississippi Bulldogs (ESPN2), and per week later they may play Missouri Tigers (ESPN). The Gamecocks have one other SEC-televised nationally televised sport in opposition to the Tennessee Girl Vols later, on February 23 (ESPN), and they’re going to renew their non-conference rivalry in opposition to Okun Huskies on February 5 (Fox).


All stats and group information for the 2022-23 NCAA season present by January 7, 2023.

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