Zia Cooke is having her first breakout season for USC WBB

South Carolina's Zia Cooke (1) and the Gamecocks celebrate with a three-pointer during the first half of the game against Missouri at Colonial Live Arena on Sunday, December 15, 2023.

South Carolina’s Zia Cooke (1) and the Gamecocks have fun with a three-pointer in the course of the first half of the sport towards Missouri at Colonial Dwell Enviornment on Sunday, December 15, 2023.


South Carolina guard Zia Cook dinner is within the midst of the perfect season of her four-year profession — and coach Don Staley wonders what took her so lengthy to do it.

Staley knew 4th within the Class of 2019 recruit She might play, however Cooke confirmed a special degree of excellence in her first season.

“It took me 4 years to get good footage,” Staley informed Cooke on Sunday.

Cook dinner replied, “Yeah, it was simply God’s timing.”

A product of Toledo, Ohio, Cooke averages profession highs in factors, assists, area objective share, free throw share and makes 3 factors per recreation. She additionally had the bottom turnover per recreation of her profession, regardless of having extra minutes on base.

She led South Carolina in scoring in 10 of her first 20 video games, together with her personal 24 factors within the group’s 92-46 Sunday win over Arkansas. Sunday marked the fourth time she’s scored 20 or extra factors in a single recreation this season.

“I believe I have been in an amazing place mentally because the begin of the season,” Cook dinner mentioned. “I used to be having enjoyable on the market. I simply do my finest to play that method each time I step on the ground.”

Cooke performs with confidence, taking the identical photographs she missed in earlier elements of the video games, driving to the rim to earn free throw makes an attempt and celebrating after a made basket with completely different dances or poses.

Missed photographs do not deter Cook dinner as they’ve prior to now. Consequently, they made it extra environment friendly.

“Final yr, they most likely would have made her take 4 or 5 unhealthy photographs within the second half,” Staley mentioned. “She did not do this. She simply relied on her skill to create a behavior of taking good photographs and capturing photographs.”

Her manufacturing this season is the excessive level of her rookie marketing campaign, which featured profession lows in factors and area targets, free throws and a 3-point share.

All through her profession, Staley Cook dinner has inspired staying put when the photographs aren’t going to land. Staley tells her that she just isn’t “one-dimensional” as a participant and that scoring just isn’t the one strategy to affect the sport.

“Pre-season, I’m similar to, ‘Dia, you simply must Staley mentioned. “Do not consider something. Simply do. Do not get caught up within the missed shot.”

Attend on the proper time

Cooke’s manufacturing provides the Gamecocks (20-0, 8-0 SEC) a brand new dimension, particularly whenever you’ve put in an efficient capturing night time.

When the Boston Excessive was dealing with the Quad towards Georgia, Made a efficiency of 31 factors That lifted USC to win. Cook dinner’s second half offense towards South Dakota State helped South Carolina put the sport away within the fourth quarter.

Within the second recreation of the season towards Maryland, she scored 10 of her 18 factors within the Jimmycocks’ explosive third quarter to depart a floor run for the group. She additionally made her first of three video games with at the very least 4 three-pointers this season throughout that outing.

“Zia has simply grown in such an incredible method,” mentioned Boston. “I believe she was simply getting higher. She’s placing in all of the work after rehearsal. She’s getting shot after shot. And it nonetheless pays off.”

Cooke is now a veteran of the group, and he has loads of expertise to talk of.

I watched one season finish prematurely as a result of COVID-19, and one other finish with a heartbreaking loss within the Remaining 4 earlier than serving to USC to its nationwide championship.

This was just like how she carried out on the sector. It took Cook dinner time to completely determine issues out, however the extra she did, the extra harmful the Gamecocks turned.

“It is mentally more durable,” Staley mentioned. “She’s stronger psychologically. All collectively. We had been hoping to fulfill up just a little sooner. However her time is her time. It could not have occurred at a greater time.”

Zia Cooke’s profession yr

Stats for 2022-23 as of Monday

  • Factors per recreation: 15.8 (up from 10.7 in 2021-22)
  • Assists per recreation: 2.1 (from 1.7)
  • Area objective share: 43% (from 34%)
  • Free throw share: 80.5% (over 70.5%)
  • 3 factors per recreation: 2.0 (up from 1.3)
  • Turnover per recreation: 1.4 (down from 2.0)

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Jeremiah Holloway covers South Carolina girls’s basketball and soccer for the state. A graduate of the College of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he’s from Greensboro, NC and is a basketball fan. Holloway joined the state in August 2022.

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