Freshman forward Sidney Cooks has quickly emerged as one of MSU’s go-to players this season, despite being so young, with little experience and part of a team loaded with upperclassmen.
This season, Cooks averages more than 11 points per game and five rebounds per game while helping lead the Spartans to a 14-5 overall season record so far.
Cooks was named the Associated Press’ girls basketball player of the year in Wisconsin after a stellar senior year performance averaging approximately 28 points, 14 rebounds and three assists per game.
The former five-star recruit was a McDonald’s All-American and finished her career at St. Joseph Catholic High School with 1,909 total points.
Cooks said both the physical and mental aspects of college basketball are definite changes from high school hoops.
“The strength, the speed and just being mentally prepared for everything has definitely been the biggest difference, because coming in I knew the physical side was going to be a change,” Cooks said. “However, mentally I believe I am really strong so learning a ton of plays, different positions and strategies was really important coming in because I know memorizing a lot of plays is really important for college ball.”
Cooks said she took playing college hoops seriously as soon as she arrived in East Lansing, because it helped her adjust quickly to playing with a different environment.
“(I’m) just believing in myself, that I can guard anybody, and believing in my footwork because I’m faster than most forwards,” Cooks said.
Many seniors have helped to mentor Cooks and helped her adjust to not only playing college basketball, but also, to life off the court.
“This team, we are a big family, we are all sisters,” Cooks said. “We might get mad at each other sometimes, but I know we can all get along at any time.”
Head coach Suzy Merchant said she trusts Cooks to be a starter on this team and sometimes take the final shot in certain situations.
“I love her confidence, and she is aggressive,” Merchant said in a press release earlier this season after a win over Rhode Island. “She is coming out and bringing it every night, which is an amazing quality in any type of player, but certainly a freshman.”
Her teammates knew when Cooks came on board that she was going to be great for the team offensively and defensively.
The team needed that because they lost players with those skills in the past, and Cooks was a great in the transition from high school to college, redshirt senior guard Branndais Agee said.
“Freshman year is always the toughest because you are trying to get a feel for the game, the toughness of the game, and I feel our conference is very physical and it’s filled with a lot of big players,” Agee said. “I always try to remind her that it is OK and do not let the mental stress get in your mind or let the physical stress get to you.”
Agee said Cooks’ transition from high school to college has been impressive and she just needs to keep getting stronger, both mentally and physically.
“I’m still getting used to this system, ... and I still feel like I haven’t shown my full game yet,” Cooks said. “With all the new players we get, this team will be super flexible and I’ll be able to showcase more things and help lead this team to as far as I can.”