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Heralded freshman ready to make an immediate impact on women's basketball

October 24, 2017

Everyone is different. When tasked with a difficult challenge, some people naturally might let a sense of doubt seep in and let their lack of conviction get the best of them. This is normal, it's human nature.

On the other hand, there are certain individuals who are naturally equipped with the supreme confidence that allows them to take on any and every daunting challenge presented to them head on without much reservation. MSU freshman basketball player Sidney Cooks may be one of those individuals. 

At Women's Basketball Media Day on Monday, the Wisconsin native didn't waver when talking about the impact she expects to have on the season and let her intentions be known from the jump. 

"Personally i'm hoping to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year," Cooks said. "I feel like I have a lot of pressure on myself to uphold my name." 

Those are lofty expectations, even for a player as determined as Cooks. Since the award was first presented in 1982, only one MSU player has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, that was Kalisha Keane in the 2010-11 season.

But part of the reason why the unfavorable statistics don't affect Cooks, and why she feels like their is pressure on her to "uphold her name" is because she is seen as a highly-touted player coming out of high school to be featured on the Spartans' roster.

As a senior, Cooks was ranked fifth overall in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz and was named the Associated Press' Girls Basketball Player of the Year in Wisconsin. The star-studded forward averaged 27.6 points and 13.8 rebounds during her senior season at St. Joseph High School, and finished with just over 1,900 points for her high school career.

Those are just a few of the freshman's accomplishments in her high school career. College, however, is a whole different ball game, and Cooks herself acknowledged that the transition wasn't easy.

"It was hard at first, I didn't expect it to be as fast." Cooks said. 

Head coach Suzy Merchant said the pace of the college game is the most noticeable difference between high school and college basketball.

"I think the number one thing that high school kids see when they come to college or come to a college practice is the pace," Merchant said in a press conference. "Everybody is bigger, stronger, and faster."

All in all, Merchant credited Cooks' ability to learn the intricacies of the college game at an efficient rate, while marveling at her physical gifts.

"She's a true stretch four man at 6'4", she can block shots," Merchant said. "I've been really impressed with her IQ for the game in terms of how quickly she's picked it up."

Despite being such a heralded player coming in, Cooks said that she was bound to make mistakes throughout her adjustment period to MSU and she needed to come to grips with that.

"I had to realize making a mistake is fine, but now it's really flowing and I'm really excited for this year," Cooks said. 

Cooks unwavering confidence and immediate impact will be needed this season, as the women's team lost it's all-time leading scorer Tori Jankoska last season to the WNBA Draft.

Cooks said she still has high expectations for the team despite the loss of a dynamic player such as Jankoska.

"I feel we all bring a lot of athleticism to this team. It will be a long and fast team which other teams in the Big Ten do not have," Cooks said. "I'm really looking forward to that and bringing championships here for the next four years." 

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