Gabrielle Cooper’s health battle has derailed her junior season

first_img Published on March 6, 2019 at 11:47 pm Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarez Gabrielle Cooper stationed herself in the left corner of the court after practice and looked toward the wing. “Ball,” she commanded.“That’s short,” she said as it clipped the rim. “Ball,” she repeated. “That’s off,” she said as her second attempt skimmed iron. It was Jan. 22 and her shot was off. She wasn’t starting it from the right side. It wasn’t “pure.” Cooper had a penchant for recognizing what was wrong with various jumpers. She once told teammate Kadiatou Sissoko to stop “wrapping around” her shot and alerted Marie-Paule Foppossi when she threw the ball instead of shooting it.But, in the weeks that preceded and followed that practice, for the first time in Cooper’s life, she didn’t know how to fix her own.Cooper’s shooting defines her game. She set the program record for 3s by a freshman (81). A year later, she connected on 80 more. Her junior year hasn’t followed. Cooper entered last winter in “the best shape” of her life, she said. She fine-tuned her jumper to create a consistent release. For 14 games, it worked. But then Cooper was admitted to the emergency room with strep throat on Dec. 27, her mother, Benji Hardaway said. She was diagnosed with “walking pneumonia” a week later. A six-and-a-half week, 10-for-50 stretch from deep knocked her season off course.Cooper provided no comment on her diagnosis, but said on Feb. 20 she felt “off-balance” on the court and in her daily life. Her 47 made 3s represent an uneven 2019 campaign. No. 18 Syracuse (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) has traversed its own up-and-down season, with its latest stop on Thursday against Virginia (12-18, 5-11) in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Orange can solidify its status as a top-four seed if Cooper follows a recent hot stretch into the postseason. But can she fix her shot?AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I don’t know,” Cooper said on Feb. 20 while shaking her head. “I truly don’t know. That’s probably the problem. (I’ve) never had to deal with this before.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorLast May, Cooper followed the advice of Orange-great and close friend Brittney Sykes and Hardaway when she texted former SU men’s basketball grad assistant Katie Kolinski. Kolinski, weeks away from accepting her new job at Buffalo, agreed to meet Cooper in the Carmelo K. Anthony Center for one-hour sessions. She knew Cooper’s shot needed only a minor tweak.Cooper usually rocked the ball from the middle of her face, and Kolinski identified the unnecessary movement. Cooper needed to start her shot from her right side. Cooper started the process with one-arm shooting, committing the form to muscle memory. Then, Kolinski threw passes to Cooper’s right side so “all she has to do is go up.” Kolinski said it only takes 30 days to break a habit.“I gave her the foundation,” Kolinski said, “and she went with it.”After mastering the catch-and-shoot, the pair crafted a one-dribble pull-up jumper where the ball would never leave her right side. With her new arsenal she led Syracuse in nonconference play in 2018.She recorded two late 3s at then-No. 3 Oregon on the road in an eventual 75-73 Syracuse loss. On Nov. 10, she felt “the shooter’s touch.” Facing Princeton in Cancun on Nov. 23, she swished a deep ball off a slick pass from Kiara Lewis and told Lewis “I got you,” as the scoreboard flicked over.In the best games of Cooper’s career — her six 3s versus Notre Dame in her freshman year, the eight she made last season in North Carolina — Hardaway recognized the same flawless stroke.“I try to stick to it and not try to fall back into my old ways,” Cooper said last fall. “I can tell if I’m shooting from my old form … If I shoot to the right and shoot higher I know I’m shooting like I’m supposed to.”Following a Christmas trip back home to Lansing, Illinois, Cooper was primed to take her shot into the ACC. Instead of traveling back to SU on Dec. 28, Cooper went to University of Chicago hospital and was diagnosed with strep throat, Hardaway said. She returned to Syracuse a day late and responded on Jan. 3 against Clemson with a 7-of-12 performance from 3 in a nine-point win.Corey Henry | Staff PhotographerThree days later, Hardaway said, Cooper thought she had the flu. A 1-of-9 performance hosting Virginia Tech — including two crucial missed free throws in the fourth quarter — triggered a late night trip to the Carmelo K. Anthony Center. She didn’t know what was wrong. Some shots were short, others bricked off back iron.Cooper later said she “couldn’t find the medium.” Her remedy was more shooting. A precautionary trip to a Syracuse hospital revealed that she had “walking pneumonia” and a six-to-eight week recovery time frame. Along with a head cold, Cooper’s “equilibrium” was thrown off, Hardaway said. Cooper followed a home remedy of rubbing oregano oil behind her ears, which Hardaway said helped slightly. But her production plummeted. She spent games differing shots and others missing six or seven. She also fell down multiple times on the court, most notably slipping after tip-off on Feb. 21.Cooper had always known how to fix her shot — Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman entrusted her with the task two years ago after a 7-of-50 slump sunk her freshman season. But time and rest inadvertently derailed Cooper’s 2019. In recent weeks, she’s felt better, Hardaway said. Her production has seen a slight uptick. She’s recorded a 3 in three of the last four games and added nine rebounds in the regular-season finale against Boston College.“She’s getting a little more average now,” Hardaway said. “We’re trying to get her productive on the court. … We’re just hoping she comes around.”Her improved health lent itself to clarity. She wasn’t getting under the ball, instead muscling it to the rim. Cooper analyzed the issue and ironed it out through a two-hour shooting session with Hardaway in the Carmelo K. Anthony Center the night before Syracuse hosted Notre Dame on Feb. 25. In the first quarter of the matchup, she rose up a few feet behind the arc and ended a 1-of-11 stretch.In the packed Carrier Dome stands, Hardaway watched while tracking Cooper’s stats on ESPN. Her last contact with Cooper came before the game via text. “C’mon,” Hardaway texted before referencing the movie Space Jam. “Who’s coming on the court today? A Monstar or a mouse?”So Cooper kept shooting. Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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