first_img Published on March 6, 2016 at 10:19 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse,Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment. Trevor Cooney is not even looking to see if they go in.As each jump shot leaves his hands, the reaction in the Carrier Dome tells him the result. But it’s not a full crowd, or any crowd at all. Just a small group of coaches and managers standing under the rim, gathering his rebounds and feeding passes into his chest.When he hits one, they say, “There it is.”When he misses, they say, “Make the next one.”It’s a few minutes after 3 p.m. on Jan. 12 and the outlook of Cooney’s final college season is grim. Three days ago Syracuse fell to North Carolina and dropped to 0-4 in conference play. Cooney scored a season-high 27 points that felt somewhat hollow in the loss.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOne day later, the Orange will beat Boston College to start an 8-1 run that sidesteps another empty season. And now, thanks to that stretch, Syracuse is in range of the NCAA Tournament as it heads to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for a make-or-break ACC Tournament opener against Pittsburgh. All that’s left in Cooney’s five-year career is postseason basketball, one last chance to untangle a complicated legacy and disprove the blanket statements that have followed him for four seasons.That he’s one-dimensional. That he doesn’t hit the big shots. That he loses steam at the end of every year.I know that the better year I have this year and however far we go and how many games we win, that’s what I’ll be remembered as. That’s why this year’s so big and you just want to play well and win a lot of games because that’s what’s going to stick.Trevor CooneyBut for now Cooney warms up an hour before a light Boston College walkthrough with a full-speed workout. All that’s important is his next jump shot. That’s the future he sees.He dribbles hard around an invisible screen, his dry-fit shirt soaked in sweat, and bricks a mid-range jumper. His response is animated, a hop into the air that cuts through the rhythm of the drill. He catches the next pass on the move and sinks a 3 from the left wing. His response is subtle, a light nod at the rim as if to say, “Thanks for letting that one through.”It goes on like this. There it is or make the next one. Make the next one or there it is.The two phrases echo throughout the empty stadium. They start to sound like words to live by. After all, this is Cooney’s life.,• • •Trevor Cooney is, more often than not, placed into one of two categories.At times unstoppable: 33 points on nine 3s against Notre Dame in February 2014, 28 points on seven 3s against Florida State in January of 2015, 19 points in the first 10 minutes at Wake Forest on Jan. 16.And at others unbearable: two points on six shots in a loss to Dayton in the 2014 Tournament, the two times he’s been held scoreless in 25 or more minutes, the three times he’s shot 1-of-8 from 3 in a Syracuse loss.The euphoric highs and painful lows have made Cooney a polarizing player in central New York, but there’s a lot in between.He was on the floor when Syracuse lost to Michigan in the 2013 Final Four and hasn’t left it since. He’s a rare three-year starter in the era of one- and two-and-dones, helped the Orange to a 25-0 start in 2013-14 and was a stabilizing presence while NCAA sanctions mired much of SU’s last two seasons. He’s been a rock in the 2-3 zone and made himself comfortable atop the ACC steals leaderboard. If he gets hot in the postseason, he could finish with the second most 3s in Syracuse history. He’s on pace to finish his career with close to 1,400 points, more than 200 assists and more than 200 steals.Jim Boeheim continually comes to Cooney’s defense, suggesting that fans don’t see Cooney’s whole effect on games. After SU’s loss to Florida State on Saturday, Boeheim was asked about Cooney’s struggles and said “I’m tired of that same old story.” On Feb. 29, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said “Trevor Cooney is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever competed against.”All of that puts him in the thick of elite company. So why is there so much reluctance to call Cooney elite?“If you went through the country and found all the players who can make five 3s in the league in one game, who can make 5?” SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “Trevor’s made nine. He’s broken records. And if he doesn’t it’s like, ‘Woah, what happened?’“And so I think that whenever you reach the pinnacle of your profession everybody is trying to knock you down a bit.”When Cooney got to Syracuse in 2011 — in the same class as future NBA players Michael Carter-Williams and Rakeem Christmas — he was wanted but not needed right away. The coaching staff worried that redshirting the 65th ranked recruit in the country would present problems. Players of that caliber usually expect to play right away, and they didn’t know if the lights-out shooter from Sanford (Delaware) High School would react.But whenever Hopkins walked through the Carmelo K. Anthony Center that first year, he’d see Cooney running around the court. Sometimes with SU assistant coach Gerry McNamara, other times alone. There were 5 a.m. wake ups. Long days in the weight room. A jump shot to perfect: feet shoulder-length apart, a quick bend at the knees, the slightest hitch before releasing the ball, then …Swish. Again. Brick. Again. And so on.There are a lot of expectations with shooters. I remember coming into school and being labelled as that and then wanting to work on my shot a ton. … And look, people think we shooters should make every shot, and sometimes I have those games and sometimes I don’t. But you can’t get caught up in it. It comes with just playing, you block it out.Trevor CooneyHe started as the third guard in a tight backcourt rotation, shot 26.7 percent from 3 and went into his sophomore season as the shooter who needed to shoot better. He fine-tuned the other essentials of his game — the angles of the zone, ball-handling and spacing the floor for his teammates — but was, and still is, only as good as his last jumper.So he tirelessly worked to make sure that shot went in. When it didn’t, he shot more. It helped him mentally to physically work the kinks out of his game, but it also started to slow him down.“If you struggle in any way, all you do is what? You have to work harder. That’s how he’s built,” Hopkins said. “But sometimes you also have to work smart. Sometimes you can work yourself to a detriment, especially when you’re playing as many minutes as he is and you’re a shooter.”,• • •Trevor Cooney is sitting in the corner, smacking a towel against the floor and laughing uncontrollably.Practice wrapped up 20 minutes ago, Syracuse is two days away from its Feb. 11 meeting with Florida State and three Orange walk-ons are playing a half-court game against a group of teenagers from military families. Cooney is providing color commentary from the baseline, and his analysis is laced with playful jabs at his teammates and bellowing celebrations when the wide-eyed teenagers score. When the game dies out, Cooney slumps into a folding chair by the court and signs team posters while giving out his Snapchat name.A year ago, he couldn’t finish practice without making a certain number of jump shots. Even if Syracuse played on Saturday and had another game Monday, he’d put in the extra hours before and after practice. McNamara once had to kick him out of the gym altogether.But there was gradual wear on Cooney’s body, notably a back injury at the end of last season and lots of miles on a shooter who depends on his legs. Two years ago Cooney scored in double-figures in one of Syracuse’s last 10 games. Last season he hit more than one 3 in just one of the Orange’s last six contests. His numbers have even dipped in the final weeks of this regular season, as he’s shot 5-of-30 from deep in SU’s last four games and missed a game-tying 3 in Saturday’s loss to the Seminoles.“The last few years, and I don’t think this is the perfect word, but his legs have burned out a little bit toward the end of the season and we’ve been looking for a reason why,” said Matt Cooney, Trevor’s brother who has trained him over the years. “One of the things we landed on was that maybe he was burning himself out during the season with huge workouts after practice and things like that, and I know he had to dial it back a little bit.”That’s been met with other changes to his overall approach. The Cooney who had to make a certain number of shots before leaving the gym was also driven by strict routine. On game days he always ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, had to get to the Carrier Dome at a certain time with certain people and take a certain number of shots in a 20-minute window.Now he’s not as interested in a rigid approach as he is about getting his mind in the right place. He doesn’t do peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anymore, and instead frequents Mom’s Diner off Westcott Street for a bacon egg and cheese sandwich on game days. He then rests before a light workout in at the Melo Center, usually focused on his core, and arrives at the Dome three hours before tip off with a less-regimented pregame plan.It’s all designed to shake his late-season reputation. He leaves the gym after practice some days and instead takes jump shots in his head, closing his eyes to visualize the mechanics of a make and the miscalculations of a miss. He’s done worrying about the things he can’t control. He feels settled.When he’s made shots, we’ve been a better team. As far as the legacy goes, you can’t define it yet. I think the bigger thing is you have to let it play out and see how it ends up.Gerry McNamaraWhile Cooney watches from the sideline as the Syracuse managers start a post-practice scrimmage, one of the teenagers from earlier sheepishly walks up to to him.“Hey Trevor, you should play for the Knicks next year,” the teenagers says. “They really need a shooter.”“Yeah? Well if they want me you tell them to call me, OK?” Cooney answers, smiling at the thought. “I have a little more basketball to play here, though. Then we can talk.”,• • •Trevor Cooney is used to hearing it. From opposing players, opposing coaches, announcers. From everyone.“You’re still in college? You haven’t graduated? How old are you?”These jokes are low-hanging fruit, but Cooney’s been at Syracuse for half a decade. He’s played with four different starting point guards in four seasons. He’s joining a guys-who-played-forever group that includes former Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, current Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono and current Kansas forward Perry Ellis.“I think Robbie Hummel actually was in college for six years,” Cooney added, referencing the former Purdue forward who stretched his college career to the limit. “I mean that’s just awesome. How cool is that?”It’s clear that Cooney isn’t ready to leave. He still hasn’t hit every diner in Syracuse. He doesn’t have to tell the barbers at The Shop on Erie Boulevard how he likes his hair cut. Then there’s the basketball, and those nights when the Carrier Dome is filled to the brim and it feels like he’ll never miss another jumper again.“I’ve done a lot of growing up here, just been through a lot and just learned a lot about myself and it’s definitely going to be tough to leave,” Cooney said. “… But I definitely have plenty of time, time to go out as a winner, as a guy who left it all on the floor. I would love to be remembered as that.”How long Cooney has is, in part, up to him. There may be no way to straighten out his twisted legacy. Not now. Not this late. His career numbers, impressive as they are, could be mere footnotes of his career if this final stretch doesn’t tilt in his favor. That’s basketball. That’s life.And all he can do is keep shooting and doing the little things that go unnoticed. He has to clear his mind, find the last ounces of strength in his legs and confidently toss the ball toward the hoop. Then watch and hope.Because if his last shot rolls off the rim, he’ll never have a chance to make the next one.“That last one I take, you’re going to have that taste in your mouth forever really,” Cooney said, and his eyes seemed to trail toward one of the Melo Center baskets.“You have to make it and give it your all and make sure you don’t regret anything. I guess it’s that simple.”,Banner photo by Logan Reidsma | Senior Staff Photographer Commentslast_img