Dec. 15, 2010
Sophomore forward Jack Cooley and the Notre Dame men’s basketball team have gotten the 2010-11 season off to a fast start, going 9-1 through Dec. 15. The Irish, who are off until Dec. 19 when they play host to Stony Brook, are ranked 24th by the Associated Press and 23rd in the USA Today poll. Cooley has seen action in all 10 games, averaging 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game off the bench. The 6-9, 244-pounder from Glenview, Ill., scored a personal, season-high 13 points in the team’s 97-72 win over Maine on Nov. 22. Prior to breaking for final exams, Cooley had a chance to sit down with und.com’s Maura Jones to talk about himself and playing basketball at Notre Dame.
How did you first get into basketball? When I was little I was really hyper, so my parents got me into sports to use up some of my energy and once soccer was done they were like, “Well what are we going to do now?” so they put me in basketball.
What was the first team that you ever played for? The first team I ever played for was in the Skokie Youth League. My dad was the coach and we weren’t really a team we just practiced.
Who was one your NBA idols growing up/what was your favorite NBA team? As a kid growing up I liked Michael Jordan. I was too little to really know what was going on, but he was my idol. I liked the Chicago Bulls because I’m from Chicago.
Have you ever played any position other than forward, or have you always been one of the tallest guys on the team? I have pretty much always been the tallest kid on the team. There was a point when other kids would start catching up, but then I would start growing again, haha. I’ve always been the forward.
Why do you love basketball? I really love basketball because I like the intensity and the energy. I always get really excited and nothing else causes that.
Why did you choose to come to Notre Dame? I choose Notre Dame because I’ve always been a Notre Dame fan, and once I got the offer to come here my parents started crying, and everyone was really happy. Actually that night my Dad came downstairs and said, “Do we have Rudy (the movie)?” and I said, “I don’t think so.” I go upstairs to get on the computer, then I come back downstairs and they’re watching it. I said, “Where did you get that?” and he said “I bought it from Blockbuster. I walked in and said `I’m buying the movie, how much is it?'” so he bought it.
How did you feel before your first game at Notre Dame? Before my first game I was pretty anxious and I was excited, and correctly excited, to play, but I was pretty anxious. There’s all the hype of getting ready for your first college game.
What is your favorite, signature, or most effective move in the paint? My most effective move is probably just a drop step. I’m not supposed to get fancy, so it’s probably just a drop step.
Do you have to get yourself psyched for a game, or are you naturally aggressive when you step on the court? Before a game I sometimes have to calm myself down actually. Sometimes I have to get un-psyched. I get overhyped sometimes.
What was the best moment you have had in a game while playing at Notre Dame? For my best moment so far, I would still have to go with the Pitt game last year. I got a standing ovation when I walked off. I didn’t know it at the time, but everyone texted me saying “everyone was standing and clapping for you,” and I was like “yes!” It was right after the play where I took a really bad shot, but then I got a block, and I dove on the floor for two offensive rebounds after that in a period of forty-five seconds. It was a pretty big play.
Why do you wear number 45? I actually wear forty-five for two reasons. It was my AAU number, and last year 41 and 5 were taken, and those are my two other numbers, but I couldn’t wear those.
What is your favorite part of games at Notre Dame? My favorite part of games at Notre Dame during the regular season is usually the fans. It’s so exciting when they show up.
What is one of the funniest memories that you have related to basketball? It was my sophomore year in high school, and we were playing our huge rival. It was my first time playing on varsity, and I went to check my bag, and it was an away game, and I had my home uniform. One of our star players wasn’t playing because he was injured, so he drove all the way home and got his uniform, and I wore it. Then the next day in the Tribune they said that I wore his number for moral support, so it worked.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face in playing college basketball? It’s probably just the intensity and the importance of your role. Everyone has to play well in college for it to go well.
What are your goals for this season, both personally and for the team? My goals for the team are to obviously just to win every game. Also for all of us to try hard, and everything will be fine. For me, just to work hard and get rebounds.
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses that you perceive? My weaknesses would probably be post moves, confidence on offense and taking stupid fouls. My strengths would probably be literally strength and intensity.
How do you deal with pressure during games that are really close? I deal with pressure in tight games by just taking deep breaths and I actually think about how my Dad would be really mad if I let it affect my game.
How do you manage school and basketball and still have fun? It’s pretty hard. I mean sometime I just have to put down everything and go hangout with my girlfriend, Jackie Oberlander, or play video games and relax. Sometimes I just have to get completely away from it. I really, really love basketball. I’ve never become bored of it in my whole life.
What do you study at Notre Dame, and why did you choose it? I study Business and Finance because my Dad is in finance, and I just wanted to do that too.
What is your favorite thing about Notre Dame? There are a lot of things, maybe just the camaraderie on the team and all of the traditions.
Are you involved in any other activities on campus? Do you have any other hobbies?
I don’t really have time for hobbies. I like to play video games quite a bit. I like “Call of Duty.”
What is one fun fact about you? When I was in eighth grade I was down in Mexico and there was a BB gun shooting contest. I had never fired anything like a gun before and I actually ended up winning this big shooting contest. I out shot this marine in the finals. I had never shot a gun in my life and I won. I guess I took something like 21 shots and 19 of them were bull’s-eyes.
Other than basketball, what is one competition you think you could definitely win? I guess it would probably be video games, again. All of these interviews make my life seem really pathetic, haha. I don’t know, I’m a really good soccer player. I was an outstanding goalie, so maybe something like that.
What is one thing you definitely want to do during your next few years at Notre Dame? First off, I want to win a national championship and then I guess just have a lot of fun.