It’s a game built on confidence and a belief that he can make the next play to help the team win. This is the mantra that Charles Cooke brought to James Madison and the Dukes hope that this belief will help them through a challenging early season slate.
Cooke came to JMU as part of a very talented freshman class. It was a class that head coach Matt Brady hoped to mesh with an experienced senior class. It was an experiment that took time and included many ups and downs. For Cooke, it was an experience he relished. “The experience was exciting. It took a lot of patience. There were a lot of up and downs. You try and stay consistent, but for the most part it was fun. I had a great time my freshman year, coming in and working hard and trying to compete against the seniors. Everybody wanted to come in and get a position, earn a spot on the floor.”
Cooke’s freshman season was a testament to this as he showed flashes of his playmaking ability throughout the year. By season’s end, Cooke had two points to show in limited minutes after three games in Richmond, as the Dukes completed their magical run to the CAA Championship. However, he continued to work hard and believe in himself and saved his best performances for two games in the NCAA Tournament.
In the opening-round victory against LIU-Brooklyn, Cooke had 15 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of play. He followed it up with a career-best 18 points and four three-pointers in 31 minutes against Indiana. It was this late season surge that gave JMU fans a glimpse of Cooke’s capabilities. “It gave me a push going into the sophomore season, because it gave me an edge and an understanding of what I needed to do on the defensive and offensive ends,” said Cooke.
Going into his sophomore season, Cooke has been up to the challenge, leading the Dukes in scoring with 13 points a game and 4.5 rebounds. But it has been the added responsibilities with a young team that has been the biggest challenge. “It’s a big transition for me, becoming more of a leader. The guys that came back are sophomores, and we know how much hard work and time we put in to get there. It’s a big leadership role on my part to guide the freshman in the right direction and have the right mindset and approach on the season and especially with our road games.”
It’s his relationship with the rest of the returning backcourt that will help Cooke lead this year’s young team. Both Cooke and fellow sophomore Ron Curry played against each other in New Jersey and formed a fast friendship upon coming to JMU. Teaming up with Andre Nation, the three have built a strong relationship. When he talks about their relationship, Cooke observes, “We play well together on the court and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The connection off the court carries over to on the court.”
While Nation waits out his suspension and Ron Curry battles some early injuries, Cooke is looked upon to do the only thing he knows how: continue to play confidently and consistently and do whatever he needs to help the Dukes win.