Zia Cooke's latest act is helping No. 1 South Carolina slay No. 2 UConn

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Nov. 23—PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — As a high school All-American at Rogers, Zia Cooke went viral with help from the social media accounts of Drake and Dwyane Wade.

In college, her own deft passing, nimble dribbling, and graceful offense have captivated basketball fans. The junior point guard scored 17 points Monday in No. 1 South Carolina's 73-57 win over No. 2 Connecticut in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.

"I told them it would take our best to win this tournament," said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who's getting her best from Cooke this season.

In three games in the Bahamas, Cooke had 41 points, three rebounds, 11 assists, five steals, and four turnovers. She's a high-volume producer when the basketball is in her hands, moving like a whirling dervish toward the hoop or zipping the ball to a teammate. She scores with efficiency and keeps turnovers to a minimum.

Each season, Cooke's field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage, and free throw percentage have improved, as well as her overall offensive consistency. In 2021-22, she's shooting 49 percent from the field and averaging 13.5 points per game.

"I think the experience [at South Carolina] has been really good," Cooke said. "It's my third year in and I've been having fun. [Coach Dawn Staley] has helped me become a better thinker on the floor and helped slow the game down and see the game for what it needs to be. Everything is starting to fall into place for me and the team."

Surrounded by a supporting cast of four- and five-stars, South Carolina was 58-6 with a Final Four appearance in Cooke's first two seasons. Her freshman year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, as the Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 entering the NCAA tournament. They're 6-0 this season.

The 2020-21 season ended with a crushing 66-65 loss to Stanford in the Final Four. South Carolina, which was led by Cooke's game-high 25 points, missed multiple potential game-winning shots in the final seconds.

"It's super motivating because you can tell the potential that we have," said Cooke, who was an honorable mention All-American. "We're a really good team and we added a lot of pieces to our team. I'm very excited to get back there again."

If they do — and chances are that they will — Cooke will be the engine that can. She's proven since Day 1 that she can be the catalyst of one of the best offenses in the nation. Cooke does it with talent, a strong attitude that embraces competition, and a cinematic element to her game.

There have been bouts of inconsistency, but Cooke, with Staley's blessing, has never slowed down. The speed, shots, and flamboyance continue because it's part of her game. It's what makes Zia Cooke Zia Cooke.

The viral star did it again Monday in her team's takedown of the mighty Huskies.

"Staying calm was the main factor," Cooke said.

Now, it's time to enjoy vacation.

"I really love being here," Cooke said of the Bahamas. "It's crazy that I can wake up and see the beautiful views. But overall, it's a business trip."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting