“It opens up my game,” he said. “I can just play basketball.”
Playing in Vegas also saw Cooley share the same floor with former Irish All-American Luke Harangody, a player he was often mistakenly for early in his collegiate career. Cooley scored 13 points with seven rebounds July 19 against the Denver Nuggets. Harangody, looking to resurrect his NBA career as a free agent, finished with 17 points and three rebounds.
Already in the game when Harangody checked in, Cooley yelled to the Memphis bench wondering who he should guard. There was no question for Grizzlies summer league coach and former NBA big man Bob Thornton.
“It was pretty funny,” Cooley said. “I looked at my coach and asked him, ‘Who do I have?’ he was like, ‘You already know who you’ve got.’ He’s like, ‘This is what everyone was waiting for.’
“I was like, ‘Oh, God.’”
Cooley finished Vegas with three double-doubles — a statistical staple during his final two years at Notre Dame. Those numbers peaked with a 20-point, 12-rebound effort in 30 minutes in a 90-83 victory July 17 over Washington.
Cooley closed his career with 32 double-doubles, including 19 as a senior. He hit for at least 10 points and 10 rebounds only once in his final nine games, but his void in the Irish lineup this winter will be felt more than just on the stat sheet.
“The energy that he played with was contagious to his teammates,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “He energized our building with how he played. Who does that for us?”
More pressing for Cooley now is where does he do it?
Answers will arrive soon enough.