Syracuse Basketball: In Defense Of Trevor Cooney

Nate Shron

Has the play of Trevor Cooney warranted the reaction from so many Syracuse fans?

While Syracuse Orange redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney had a couple threes to help secure SU's win over Notre Dame on Monday night, it's not a stretch to say that his season has been a disappointment so far.

In 13.5 minutes per game, Cooney is averaging 4.5 PPG on .337 field goal shooting and .292 shooting from three-point range. Since Cooney is supposedly here to chew bubblegum and knock down threes, and he's all out of bubblegum, that's below expectations.

In the average game, you expect to see Cooney go 2-of-7 or something in that range from three-point land and we were just hoping for more. And while he's made a bunch of threes in the Dome, he had yet to actually make one on the road. That's...strange.

That said, has Cooney's disappointing season warranted the reaction it has received? He's played poorly but it seems like the young'n has received more vitriol than freshman Fab Melo and freshman Dion Waiters combined. You could make the case DaJuan Coleman has been a bigger disappointment than Cooney and yet no one is demanding that Coleman transfer or want to definitively call him a bust.

So why do so many Syracuse fans have such an adverse reaction to Cooney this season? I have some theories...

Your Expectations Are Out Of Wack In General

For young college basketball (and football) fans, it's probably hard to imagine a time when most of the guys on your team stayed for four years. And yet, has recently as a decade ago, that was still the case. At the very least, 80% of the guys on most teams were in it for three years, probably four.

The point is, it wasn't that long ago when you had certain expectations for all the non-superstars on your squad. Freshman year was a wash, sophomore year was about slight improvement, junior year was when you made a contribution and senior year is when you led the way. There's still plenty of guys who fit that mold but they get overshadowed.

While the game has changed and many players are expected to become contributors, or even stars, by the time they're sophomores, not everyone fits that mold. In fact, each school seems to have settled into their own specific growth system. Kentucky is becoming a one-and-done/two-and-done factory. Syracuse, meanwhile, seems to unofficially operate on the three-year system. Assume people are gone by the time they're juniors and assume they're ready to be stars as sophs. If they last until they're seniors, that's gravy.

That system has paid off for Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson, Dion Waiters and Fab Melo and allowed for guys like Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson and Brandon Triche to grow on their own schedule. Cooney is a member of that latter group. We like to focus on Michael Carter-Williams to the point where he feels like the norm while forgetting that guys like Cooney are just as normal for SU. Some guys still take four years and Trevor Cooney is one of them whether you accept that or not.

(This isn't even to mention how out of wack Syracuse fans' expectations are in general. We're the same fanbase that wanted Doug Marrone fired in October and then called him dirty names when he left in January.)

If Cooney Were 6'10", You'd Give Him A Pass

Let's not forget what we were all saying about DaJuan Coleman when he first signed with Syracuse. Maybe it was misguided, but a good percentage of Orange fans expected Coleman to come in here as a freshman and make an impact.

Instead, Coleman has become the latest in a long line of heralded SU big men who needs an entire season to marinate. Like Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson, Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas before him, Coleman was getting a courtesy start and a couple minutes of time before he eventually screwed up and rode the pine all day. When he returns from injury, don't expect that to change.

Coleman is having very little impact on the season and has basically become non-existant during Big East play. So why aren't Syracuse fans pissed at him? Why isn't anyone calling him a bust or wishing he'd transfer to OCC?

Because he's a big man and we have different expectations for big men based on recent history. Within the last five seasons, Coleman fits a successful pattern. Be a punching bag as a freshman so you can make an impact as a sophomore.

We don't really have a recent guard pattern to fit Trevor Cooney into. All of our recent guards have developed quickly into contributors. Looking back, the odds were against that and Cooney is the eventual athlete who comes to Syracuse and struggles mightily in his first year on the floor.

His greatest crime? It's not missing three-pointers, it's being seven inches shorter than he should be.

He's Needed More Than He Should Be

When Andy Rautins was a freshman, he played behind Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf, Louie McCroskey and Josh Wright and ended up being the 10th man in the rotation.

When Rautins was a sophomore, he played behind Wright, Devo and Paul Harris who split some time at the guard spot as a freshman. He ended up the seventh man in the rotation.

Right now, Cooney is playing behind the only other two guards (Triche & MCW) and is, for all intents and purposes, the sixth man. At least until James Southerland comes back.

Cooney got caught in a bit of an imperfect storm with the early departure of Dion Waiters and transfer status of Michael Gbinije. Normally, there would be another guard ahead of Cooney in the rotation right now.

Unlike Rautins, Cooney has nowhere to hide. As the first (and only) true guard off the bench, we're all counting on him to pick up the slack, give the starters time to rest and maintain their level of production while at it. Not to say that it excuses his poor shooting, but, he's not on the same level that so many young Syracuse players before him have gotten.

No one asked sophomore Rautins to do what redshirt freshman Cooney is being asked to do.

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Has Jim Boeheim ever steered you wrong? Wait, don't answer that. Let me re-ask.

Doesn't Jim Boeheim usually figure out how to use the guys he likes? Yes. And I think it's clear Jim likes Trevor. He wants to turn Cooney into a dependable sharpshooter who eventually wins games for SU. The next Devo. The next Rautins. He can get there but not the same way Michael Carter-Williams got there.

MCW is of the new mold of college basketball player and Cooney is of the old school. One comes prepared to play immediately while the other takes time to develop. One will be gone after this season and the other will still be here when he's a senior. And my hunch is that when he is a senior and he's draining a three at the buzzer to beat North Carolina in the Dome, you're going to feel like a schmuck for ever wanting to get rid of Trevor Cooney.

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