Dayton’s Charles Cooke scores against Duquesne on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, at UD Arena in Dayton. David Jablonski/Staff

Dayton Flyers Charles Cooke: ‘Summer is about getting better’

Kendall Pollard posted a photo to Instagram on Wednesday of his three fellow seniors — Charles Cooke, Kyle Davis and Scoochie Smith — eating together somewhere in Dayton.

“Captains dinner,” Pollard wrote.

Pollard, Davis and Smith were captains last season as juniors, along with senior Dyshawn Pierre. Cooke joins the group this season in his second and final season on the court with the Dayton Flyers. He played his first two seasons at James Madison and sat out the 2014-15 season as a transfer.

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Cooke met expectations and often exceeded them last season. He led the Flyers with 15.6 points per game and ranked second on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game and second with 38 blocks, trailing only late teammate Steve McElvene, who set a school record with 55.

Cooke also led the Flyers with 59 made 3-pointers. He shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range. That was a huge improvement over his sophomore season at James Madison (29.8).

Cooke made the All-A-10 first team and the all-conference defensive team. He should contend for the player of the year award in 2016-17. This summer has been all about taking the next step as a player.

“Summer is about getting better,” said Cooke on Tuesday at UD’s Cronin Center during a break from working at a youth basketball camp. “The summer is also about building chemistry, growing as a player, growing as a team and really molding yourself with the team and building the identity with the team.”

Some fans wondered whether Cooke would be a part of this team when he put his name in consideration for the NBA Draft in April. However, new rules make it easy for players to explore the draft option, work out for teams and then pull their names out and return to college. There wasn’t any reason for Cooke not to look at the NBA.

“I went into it thinking, ‘Just give it everything you got,’” Cooke said.

Cooke had one workout with the Boston Celtics in May. He performed in shooting drills for the Celtics coaches and did many combine-type workouts to show off speed and jumping ability.

“The process was really good for me,” Cooke said. “I was able to compete with a lot of different guys who stayed in the draft and who are trying to make money with basketball as a profession. It was good to compete against other people and be analyzed by the Boston Celtics coaches and get feedback to see what I really need to improve in my game.”

The coaches told Cooke he needs to develop a more consistent shot. They told him to keep his arm up, get air under the ball and put more arc on his shot.

Cooke shot well from the field (44.9) on the whole last season but did slump at times. In the three postseason games against Richmond and St. Joseph’s in the A-10 tournament and Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, he shot 32.3 percent (11 of 34).

Cooke has been in the gym every day this summer working on his shot.

“I’m working on a lot of things and getting comfortable with a lot of things I’m not comfortable doing,” Cooke said. “It’s just having confidence in your shot and doing it the same exact way every day, trusting the process and trusting the work you put in.”

Cooke announced May 24, a day before the deadline, he would return to the Flyers for his senior year. It was an easy decision. He wouldn’t have kept his name in the draft unless he knew he was going to get drafted.

“It was obvious,” Cooke said. “I knew I had to get analyzed and see where I was. That’s a great rule to have. I wanted to take advantage of it, and I did. It was definitely a good idea to come back to college, especially to get my degree and further my success with the team.”

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