March 5, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Junior forward Jack Cooley (Glenview, Ill.), who has enjoyed the best season of his career in a Notre Dame uniform, was named today the BIG EAST Conference’s Most Improved Player. It comes just one day after he was selected as a second team all-league honoree. Cooley becomes the first Irish player in program history to win the league’s most improved player honor.
Heading into the 2010-11 campaign, Cooley had played in 55 career contests in his first two seasons and had scored just 145 career points (2.6 ppg.) and grabbed 143 career rebounds (2.5 rpg.). He had not made a start in his first two seasons and averaged just 8.4 minutes per game.
In 2011-12, Cooley found himself as a mainstay in the Irish starting lineup. Currently tied for team-high scoring honors at 12.5 ppg., with teammate Jerian Grant, he also ranks as the Irish’s leading rebounder at 9.2 rpg. Cooley has started 28 of the 30 contests he has played and is averaging 28.4 minutes per game. He leads Notre Dame in shooting percentage as he has converted on 141 of his 227 field goal attempts for a 62.1 clip. He also tops the team with 47 blocked shots.
Cooley has been dominant inside for the Irish this season and has led the Irish in scoring 10 times and in rebounding on 21 occasions. He finished the BIG EAST regular-season by averaging 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds after netting just 3.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in conference play as a sophomore. Ten of team-leading 12 double-doubles this season have come in conference play.
Cooley entered the season having scored in double figures just four times in two seasons. In 2011-12, he has scored in double figures 17 times and topped the 20-plus point mark on six occasions while also grabbing 10 or more rebounds in 14 contests. He scored a career-high 27 points in the regular-season finale against Providence on March 2 and also hauled in 17 rebounds. Cooley grabbed a career-high 18 boards against Rutgers on Feb. 15 in addition to scoring 22 points. In consecutive games against West Virginia, DePaul and Rutgers, he netted 20-plus points in all three of those outings and also had a four-game stretch during the BIG EAST season in which he posted four straight double-doubles.
Cooley was named BIG EAST Player of the Week once during the season and was a member of the league’s weekly honor rolls five times.
Three other of the league’s top awards were also announced today. Syracuse’s Fab Melo was named the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year while his teammate Dion Waiters was the recipient of the BIG EAST Sixth Man Award. Jason Clark of Georgetown was the honored with the BIG EAST Sportsmanship Award.