The 2015-16 college basketball season is just around the corner. In honor of the Flyers winning 53 games the last two seasons (and because I couldn’t come up with 2,015 reasons), I’m counting down 53 reasons (in no particular order) to look forward to the season.
Follow the blog between now and the season opener against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 13. I will have four to five updates per week.
I’ll post links on Twitter (@DavidPJablonski) and on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DavidPatrickJablonski.
No. 41: Charles Cooke
I can’t imagine how long 616 days feels to a 21-year-old. That’s how long Charles Cooke, a 6-5 junior guard from Trenton (N.J.) Catholic Academy, will have waited to play the first game of his junior season by the time he takes the court Nov. 13 against Southeast Missouri State at UD Arena.
Cooke, the player most likely to join the returning four starters in the starting lineup, hasn’t played an official game since March 8, 2014, when his sophomore season at James Madison ended with an 80-71 loss to Towson in the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. He led his team with 14 points in 39 minutes that night.
Less than a month later on April 6, 2014, Cooke announced his decision to transfer. He was the third James Madison player to leave the team after a 11-20 season.
“I’ll say to you that we think the world of Charles and he’s a terrific young man,” coach Matt Brady told JMU’s The Breeze at the time. “I thought he had a very good season and we wish him nothing but the best going forward in his next experience.”
Cooke filled the box score as a sophomore, averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 35.1 minutes. As a freshman, he averaged 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.7 steals in 22.8 minutes.
James Madison finished 21-15 in Cooke’s freshman season and beat LIU-Brooklyn at UD Arena in the First Four before losing 83-62 to Indiana in a second-round game also played at UD.
Cooke filled in for a suspended starter in the First Four game and scored 20 points. He scored 18 points off the bench against Indiana.
James Madison lost its top three scores from that 2012-13 team and struggled a season later. After being granted his release by James Madison in April 2014, Cooke announced he would transfer to Dayton in June 2014.
“I just felt as though I wanted to reach my maximum potential,” Cooke said then. “I wanted to go somewhere where I had a better fit. That program just wasn’t for me.”
Cooke became a valuable practice player for the Flyers last season but couldn’t take the floor. He made the most of the time.
“I’ve been able to develop tremendously, being able to shoot the ball, physicality wise,” Cooke told me in March when I talked to him and the other player who sat out last season, Steve McElvene, at the First Four. “I’ve learned the system. I’ve learned how it fits my game.”
That doesn’t mean it was easy watching the Flyers win 27 games without him.
“Had a Great sit out year,” Cooke wrote on Instagram after the season. “It was frustrating at times but u roll with the punches. But the time is now, next season starts now. #WatchOuttt #TalkisCheap.”
Archie Miller compared the expectations for Cooke to those for Sibert in May.
“He’s very talented,” Miller said. “He can score the ball. He’s got great length. I think he can be an excellent defender. I think he fits in with what we do in terms of style of play. I think his role is one he can carve out and do a lot of different things. But he’s going to go through a feeling-out process. He’s going to have to figure out how to play with the other guys. I think you’re going to see great growth and improvement.”