The outlier: SU signee Cooney has always stood out no matter the situation

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on December 6, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13 As he set foot inside the Cobbs Creek Recreation Center, Trevor Cooney looked around and saw no one like him. The dark, dusty gymnasium in Philadelphia presented Cooney with an unfamiliar environment. To say he stuck out would be putting it mildly. Raised in Wilmington, Del., the 12-year-old Cooney was nothing like the kids he was about to take the court with. The 5-foot-11 guard who came from a private middle school back home had only one thing in common with this inner-city crowd: basketball. ‘It was my first time introduced to basketball like that outside of Delaware,’ Cooney said. ‘I was overwhelmed by the talent that was there.’ Playing with the Reebok All-Stars AAU team was an awakening for Cooney. On his first drive to the basket, both he and the ball were sent flying into a wall after his shot was forcefully rejected. Eventually, though, his game earned the respect of his teammates — even if it took a few weeks. Cooney latched on with the RBK All-Stars and played with them throughout middle school.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text In that time, Cooney’s father Brian said, he got used to being the outsider in the gym. ‘When we would go to other states and play, he was always the odd man out,’ Brian Cooney said. But Trevor just relied on his talent and relentless determination to thrive in the odd-man role. Like when Cooney became the only eighth grader to play high school basketball in his conference. From there, he earned a spot on the U18 National Team among countless McDonald’s All-Americans. Through his deadly shooting from long range and tireless work ethic, Cooney ascended to the No. 58-ranked prospect in the country, according to ESPN. After four standout years at Sanford School in Delaware and countless AAU tournaments across the country, Cooney signed on with Syracuse as part of its 2011 recruiting class. When he arrives at SU next fall, he will have to prove himself once again to a new set of teammates and coaches. But the 6-foot-4 shooting guard isn’t worried. He has been earning people’s respect for years. ‘Down here in Delaware, Trevor was better than everyone else,’ Brian Cooney said. ‘(In other settings) he earned people’s respect as a player.’ *** Stan Waterman remembers the buzz. He remembers the talk and the rumors swirling around a sixth grader from the Delaware Catholic Youth Organization leagues. It drew Waterman in. He had to see this kid play. In a middle school game between Cooney’s Pilot School and Sanford, where Waterman coaches high school, he sat in the stands to observe this young phenom. ‘In seventh grade he tried to go up and dunk the ball against our middle school team,’ Waterman said. ‘I knew there was something special about him.’ One year later, he became Cooney’s coach. After transferring to Sanford, Cooney began playing varsity basketball as an eighth grader. He started all 28 games and averaged 10 points per game on a team that made the state championship ? all as a 14-year-old. It was in preparation for this first varsity season that Cooney began consciously working on his game. With the help of his brother and his father, he started honing his skills. Most specifically, developing his jump shot. ‘I never really had that above-average jump shot,’ Cooney said. ‘I worked hard to get it.’ His father often found Cooney shooting outside in his driveway every night, regardless of the weather. At 10 p.m., his parents would have to drag him inside to go to sleep. ‘There were nights that he would come out in January, and he’d shovel the driveway just so he could be outside shooting,’ Brian Cooney said. Now that jump shot is Trevor’s best weapon. In 24 games last year with Sanford, Cooney made at least one 3-point field goal in 21 of them. He shot 43 percent from beyond the arc. Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel, who coached Cooney this past summer with Team USA, considers it more than just a talent. Cooney’s ability as a deadly shooter goes beyond that. ‘He has a gift,’ Capel said. ‘His ability to shoot the basketball.’ *** A chorus of boos erupted from the stands at Salesianum School. Fans organized chants of ‘overrated’ and ‘Sanford sucks.’ It was moments from kick off between Salesianum and St. Mark’s — the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 high school football teams, respectively, in Delaware. But the fans’ attention wasn’t directed toward the field. Instead, their eyes were focused on the kid in the basketball jacket. Cooney just walked in. ‘I had my state championship basketball jacket on, and I had some comments and some boos,’ Cooney said. By now, though, Cooney is used to all of the attention. Not everyone plays five years of high school basketball or is ranked in ESPN’s Top 100 recruits. And most of all, not everyone gets a basketball scholarship from Syracuse. In Delaware — a state that has produced just four NBA players — word travels quickly about the next potential basketball star. Earning back-to-back All-State honors, leading his team to a state championship and being named the state Player of the Year in 2010 meant Cooney has been thrust to the top of the Delaware hoops scene. ‘With it being such a small state, people know my name a lot,’ Cooney said. ‘I definitely get some love and then some stuff that’s not so much love.’ The boos he heard at the football game on Nov. 12 follow him to each and every gym during the basketball season. No matter the opponent, Cooney is always the target. ‘He’s a marked man,’ said Waterman, Cooney’s high school coach at Sanford. He’s a marked man both literally and figuratively. Averaging no fewer than 17.4 points per game since his freshman season, Cooney’s talent forces other teams to make him the sole focus of their game plan. Throughout a game, teams will play box-and-one, face guard him and rotate a new defender in every two minutes just to try and contain him, Waterman said. And Cooney always receives all the attention of opposing fans in every game he plays. Especially after one of his dunks from last season made it onto YouTube. That dunk — which received nearly 30,000 views — posterized a player from the same Salesianum School whose fans booed Cooney at the football game in November. Cooney’s father, though, views the negative attention and criticism as a compliment. He thinks it fuels his son’s desire to work harder and prove the doubters wrong. ‘They know he can play, and that’s why they’re doing it,’ Brian Cooney said. ‘They don’t yell at the bad kids.’ *** Paul Hewitt knew what he wanted. He had coached with the USA Men’s U18 National Team before, and he understood what the team needed. ‘From my experience in 2006, I just felt that we needed a guy that could shoot it,’ Hewitt said. ‘We needed a guy that could break games open.’ As a result, Cooney tried out for — and subsequently made — the U18 National Team this past summer. On the way to a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, Cooney was the team’s second-best shooter, knocking down 39 percent of his 3-pointers. ‘There’s no question his shooting is a game-changer,’ Hewitt said. ‘People would go into a zone against us, and we threw him in there. Trevor definitely understood the value of staying ready.’ Playing alongside the likes of Kyrie Irving (Duke’s starting point guard) and Austin Rivers (the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2011), Cooney was part of the second unit for Hewitt and Capel. His minutes varied drastically from game to game, but his ability to score instantly remained consistent. He scored 16 points in 16 minutes against Mexico on 4-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. Against the Virgin Islands, he poured in 15 points in 17 minutes with four 3-pointers. ‘I was in the second group,’ Cooney said. ‘But I know that every time we went out there, we didn’t want to look like a second group. There was no lapse.’ With the 2010 high school season just underway, Waterman says he has already noticed a change in Cooney’s game. The star shooter is more confident of himself on the court. In his first game with Sanford this season, Cooney poured in 29 points with four 3-pointers. Having played with some of the best players in the country on Team USA and his AAU team, Team Final, he trusts his talents now more than ever. After spending just three weeks with Cooney, Capel, too, sees the makings of a successful player at the Division I level. The makings of a player who will continue to stand out. ‘I think he will excel at the college level,’ Capel said. ‘Will he ever be the featured guy? I don’t know. But I think he’s going to be a very good college basketball player.’ [email protected]center_img Commentslast_img read more