Notre Dame coach Mike Brey can't believe how Jack Cooley has blossomed into a leader for the Fighting Irish, especially after wondering whether the 6-9, 245-pound forward would ever get serious about basketball.
''He's going to be better than I ever imagined as a leader. He's already been better than we thought as a player,'' Brey said.
Cooley had a breakthrough season last year, going from being a dependable reserve averaging 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds a game as a sophomore to an integral player averaging 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in helping the Irish go 22-12, finish third in the Big East and earn an NCAA berth.
Brey is counting on Cooley to lead a squad that returns all five starters and adds 6-10 Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman and freshmen forwards Cameron Biedscheid and Zach Auguste. The other returning starters are guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, who both averaged more than 12 points a game last season, sixth-year player Scott Martin and Pat Connaughton.