Charles Cooke’s journey to college basketball stardom has been a roller coaster.
Five years ago, Cooke was hailed as the 11th-best New Jersey prospect, leading his team in scoring with 14 points per game as a senior. Keep in mind, he was balling at Trenton Catholic with Sacramento Kings shooting guard Malachi Richardson.
Cooke originally committed to James Madison and stayed there through his sophomore year, averaging 14.3 points per game. He led the Dukes to a win in an NCAA Tournament First Four game against LIU Brooklyn, then dropped 18 on an Indiana squad that featured Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller.
After transferring to Dayton and sitting out 2014-15, Cooke had a breakout year as a junior for the Flyers. Not only was Cooke the highest scorer on the team with 15.6 points per game, but he maintained a team-high 39 percent mark from three, and was the second-strongest rebounder on the team with 5.8 per night. Cooke showed he could do it all, being named first-team all-Atlantic Ten and making the conference all-defensive first team.
This year, Cooke’s point total is up: he is averaging 18.7 points per game, making him the seventh-leading scorer in a hot-shooting A-10 conference. His three-point percentage is down to 35 percent, but his overall shooting percentage is up to 48 percent. His assists are have increased as well.
The good news is that Cooke is a natural-born scorer. He’s already scored 20 points in four games this year and has surpassed 15 points in five others. And, he makes 48 percent of the shots he takes. When the Flyers played William & Mary, he even managed to score every single second-half bucket for the Flyers. Overall, Cooke is strong in many aspects of the game. He limits turnovers and can rebound well (though that may be a challenge against stronger opponents in the NBA).
On the flip side, Cooke lives and dies by the three. When Cooke is on, he can make 50 percent of the threes he takes, however, he also can go cold. Likely, Cooke will need to be even more efficient to succeed in the NBA.
Another concern: his health. Cooke returned Wednesday night after sitting out three out of Dayton’s previous four games with a back injury. Because such injuries tend to linger, this could become a concern if it flares back up.
Cooke may or may not be a late-second-round pick in the 107 NBA Draft, but regardless, he will most definitely get a shot over the summer. If he stays healthy and consistent offensively, he can fight his way onto a roster.