Cooney Credit: Why Trevor’s Attitude is Critical for Syracuse’s Redshirt

There’s not many highly-touted freshman totally fine with waiting an entire year to play.

After Syracuse’s 92-56 win over Manhattan last night, coach Jim Boeheim put an end to the loudest debate of the early season, announcing freshman guard Trevor Cooney will be redshirted. Boeheim was clear that the decision was based purely on numbers, and not the sharp shooter’s ability. And the only way this decision works is if the player’s attitude supports it, so credit goes to Cooney.

“We are going to redshirt Trevor Cooney. I want to emphasize that, sometimes when we redshirt a guy he couldn’t help us, meaning he’s not good enough sometimes to help us, sometimes a guy redshirts when he’s injured, this is different. When you redshirt somebody, usually it’s because he’s not good enough to play yet, that’s not the case. He is good enough, he could play out there and I think he could play well. But when you have four guards ahead of him, he’s not going to play a significant amount of time.”

Short term, this move works for the program. With Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, and Michael Carter-Williams already entrenched in the guard rotation, there simply aren’t enough minutes left over for Cooney.

Long term, it works for the player. It will allow the Orange another full season out of a talented young man. Assuming he stays all five years, Cooney’s final year of eligibility will be the very futuristic ’15-’16 season.

“I can go through a list of about eight guys who would’ve played a little tiny bit as freshman, but they were starters in their fifth year they were either captains of the team or they were one of the best players on the team, and I believe Trevor will be that kind of player. Instead of playing a little bit here or there. I made the decision to redshirt him this year because I think he’ll be really good down the road.”

But the decision starts with Cooney. He was a highly coveted prize coming out of high school, turning down offers from Maryland, Notre Dame, Villanova and Wake Forest. As the AAU circuit and increased media attention creates brands out of prep stars, it’s becoming rarer to redshirt talented freshman. Players choose schools to play immediately, and if that doesn’t happen will threaten to transfer. But props to the well-rounded Cooney for taking the long view.

“I knew it was the best thing. I wouldn’t have gotten that many minutes this year, and to trade this season for my senior year when I can get 25-30 minutes a game is what we’re hoping for.”

Redshirting a player of Cooney’s ability can be sensitive. He’s just finished years of being courted by elite programs, being offered the moon and stars, and has worked his whole life to contribute right away. Even though it’s good for him, not many 18-year-olds think about ramifications four years from now.

“It definitely is (a bit disappointing) you know, you come to college to play basketball, and you’re a basketball player, that’s what you want to do. But in the end, I know it’s the right move.”

Having this decision made early will allow the freshman to focus on helping his teammates in practice, and also improving individually as a player. Cooney believes the redshirt will help him maximize his college experience, both physically and in the classroom. It’s a very mature way of looking at the situation.

“It takes a little stress off of you. You can focus on academics a little more. You can focus on your body a little more with rest. And also you can work it a little harder knowing that you don’t have a game tomorrow. The only thing I can do is just take this year to get better.”

There’s been a lot of talk about how deep Jim Boeheim’s roster is this season, and this may be the strongest proof of that to date. Cooney would likely see significant minutes for almost any other team in the country, and could probably start for more than a handful of tournament teams, but he had no chance of cracking the Orange rotation.

Instead of struggling to find minutes for a fifth guard this season, the decision to redshirt Cooney, along with his positive attitude, will allow him to get the most out of his career in Orange. It doesn’t usually work for many highly-recruited freshman, but credit Cooney for being a cut above the rest.

Posted: Steve Neikam

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