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

the South Carolina Gamecocks (15-0, 3-0 SEC) They bought off to a clear begin to the 2022-23 NCAA season, making it by means of a troublesome non-conference schedule unscathed and carrying that success by means of beginning SEC play. The defending champions most likely seemed extra spectacular than after they went 36-2 and gained 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 below 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 workforce within the nation defends and recovers the ball like South Carolina, and the Gamecocks have 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 Cook 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 recreation, 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 repute in South Carolina as a participant who by no means shrink back from catching exhausting photographs and had a knack for stepping up in essential moments. As a senior, her recreation has turn into simpler, which bodes effectively not just for Gamecocks 2022-23 video games, however for Cooke as effectively, as 2023 WNBA Draft inches nearer and nearer. Let’s check out what Cook dinner means to South Carolina and why the WNBA may wish to draft her within the spring.


Honors and Statistics

Cook 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. Cook dinner averaged 12 factors per recreation 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 best way.

Since then, she has turn into an integral half of what’s arguably probably the most profitable South Carolina program within the nation. As a beginning capturing guard for the Gamecocks, Cooke made the All-SEC workforce twice (2021 first workforce and 2022 second workforce) 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 through 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 workforce. Since then, Cook dinner has gained two gold medals with Group USA: one in 2017 through the FIBA ​​Below-16 Americas Championship and one other in 2018 through the FIBA ​​Below-17 World Cup. Most just lately, Cooke participated in workforce tryouts for the 2021 AmeriCup USA workforce which lasted Earn gold in Puerto Rico.

Cook dinner’s scoring effectivity peaked throughout her senior season

South Carolina v. Maryland

Cooke was all the time capable of 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.
Photograph by G Fiume/Getty Photographs

Whereas South Carolina has been a standout program below Staley for a few years now, in latest seasons the Gamecocks have overhauled their identification as a workforce to deal with protection, rebounding, and paint management on each ends of the ground. Since 2019, it’s South Carolina Rank Be at least No. 15 amongst Division 1 groups in factors allowed per 100 possessions (No. 2 through the match final season) whereas at least No. 4 (No. 1 final season) in whole bounce fee (Its stats hop).

This, in fact, is led by the workforce’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 workforce’s storied spacing tends to endure from the sheer variety of gamers on its roster who excel under the free throw line, its general measurement typically makes up for the That by working exhausting on the offensive glass.

The place as a high-octane ranger cook dinner Match for this kind of workforce constructing? She is commonly tasked with saving the Gamecocks’ offense if she can’t get the ball up the put up, often on 3-point photographs or lengthy leap photographs off the dribble. It isn’t all the time a glorified offensive position, and whereas Cooke is greater than able to catching these photographs—she led the Gamecocks in three-pointers made in two of her first three seasons with this system—she would not all the time lend itself to efficient particular person offensive numbers, although she is In idea 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 the very best offensive efficiency of her profession thus far. Whereas the addition of Keira Fletcher by means of the switch gate and the return of Raven Johnson from damage have boosted South Carolina’s guarding depth and eaten in Cook dinner’s minutes (23.8), they shoot the ball at the next fee than ever earlier than (20 discipline purpose makes an attempt per 40) minutes; 28.5 p.c utilization fee), and the outcomes are promising: Cook dinner’s 50.3 p.c efficient discipline purpose share is way greater 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 turned a participant the Gamecocks may reliably depend on to stability their heavy hitting strategy. 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 below management that yielded 13 free throw makes an attempt.

Highlights: Cook 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 workforce that does not broadly characteristic selecting and rolling in its offense (in keeping with Synergy Sports activities, 6.5 p.c of the Gamecocks’ possessions got here through catch ball handlers and rollrs, and just one.5 p.c through curler), South Carolina wants its guards to be extra selective of their offense and know How they make themselves out there when frontcourt teammates draw further defensive consideration. Cooke’s enchancment in these areas may very effectively imply the distinction between low-scoring video games, low-scoring video games, and Gamecock victories.

Cook dinner’s growth additionally bodes effectively for her as knowledgeable. There was by no means any doubt about her basketball talent and flexibility of her leap shot, and he or she can be probably the greatest athletes in her place; The prospect of her enjoying a WNBA offense with a spaced ground and creating guard expertise is intriguing, to say the least, and certain a significant cause why the workforce took a swing at her within the 2023 WNBA Draft.

Watch her play

There is no such thing as a scarcity of nationally televised video games in the remainder of South Carolina Desk. On Sunday, the Gamecocks could have a recreation Mississippi Bulldogs (ESPN2), and per week later they may play Missouri Tigers (ESPN). The Gamecocks have one other SEC-televised nationally televised recreation in opposition to the Tennessee Woman Vols later, on February 23 (ESPN), and they’ll renew their non-conference rivalry in opposition to Okun Huskies on February 5 (Fox).


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

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