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 throughout the first half of the sport in opposition to Missouri at Colonial Stay Enviornment on Sunday, December 15, 2023.

tglantz@thestate.com

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 may play, however Cooke confirmed a special degree of excellence in her first season.

“It took me 4 years to get good photos,” 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, subject aim share, free throw share and makes 3 factors per sport. She additionally had the bottom turnover per sport 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 staff’s 92-46 Sunday win over Arkansas. Sunday marked the fourth time she’s scored 20 or extra factors in a single sport 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 greatest to play that manner each time I step on the ground.”

Cooke performs with confidence, taking the identical pictures she missed in earlier components 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 pictures do not deter Cook dinner as they’ve up to now. In consequence, they made it extra environment friendly.

“Final yr, they in all probability would have made her take 4 or 5 unhealthy pictures within the second half,” Staley mentioned. “She did not try this. She simply relied on her capacity to create a behavior of taking good pictures and taking pictures pictures.”

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

All through her profession, Staley Cook dinner has inspired staying put when the pictures 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 approach to affect the sport.

“Pre-season, I’m similar to, ‘Dia, you simply should 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 offers the Gamecocks (20-0, 8-0 SEC) a brand new dimension, particularly if you’ve put in an efficient taking pictures night time.

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

Within the second sport of the season in opposition to Maryland, she scored 10 of her 18 factors within the Jimmycocks’ explosive third quarter to depart a floor run for the staff. She additionally made her first of three video games with not less than 4 three-pointers this season throughout that outing.

“Zia has simply grown in such a tremendous manner,” 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 staff, 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 Closing 4 earlier than serving to USC to its nationwide championship.

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

“It is mentally harder,” Staley mentioned. “She’s stronger psychologically. All collectively. We had been hoping to satisfy 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 sport: 15.8 (up from 10.7 in 2021-22)
  • Assists per sport: 2.1 (from 1.7)
  • Discipline aim share: 43% (from 34%)
  • Free throw share: 80.5% (over 70.5%)
  • 3 factors per sport: 2.0 (up from 1.3)
  • Turnover per sport: 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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