LUDWIGSBURG, Germany - Jack Cooley feels as comfortable as he’s ever been. The center is just busy trying to help German club MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg get wins while not thinking about getting back to the NBA right now.
Cooley has picked up double-doubles in his last two German BBL league games and he also had a huge 31-point outing in the Basketball Champions League. He continues to show a skill-set that earned him a shot with the Utah Jazz in the 2014-15 season.
That 31-point outburst actually was the culmination of a blistering run for Cooley as the 25-year-old made all 28 field goal attempts from inside the three-point line over a three-game stretch in the Champions League - scoring 12 and 20 points in the other two games.
Colley and Ludwigsburg are playing in two competitions this season. He is averaging 14.3 points and 7.1 rebounds through 12 games in the German BBL, and he has stepped up his production to 15.6 points in seven Basketball Champions League games to go with 6.3 rebounds. You could argue that it’s an automatic two points when Cooley gets the ball as he is shooting over 70 percent in German league games and just under 77 percent in the Champions League.
Chalk that up to finding a very good comfort level.
“My level of happiness in the situation I am in right now rivals that of when I was in the NBA. I am very excited about where I am right now,” Cooley said.
Ludwigsburg is a club that has reached the German playoffs the last three seasons. Among his teammates are former Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds, Tekele Cotton from Wichita State’s Final Four team, Kelvin Martin from Charleston Southern and rookies Wes Washpun of Northern Iowa and Martin Breunig formerly of Montana.
The BBL is a league that fits Cooley’s game much more than his previous European stints in Turkey and Spain.
“Turkey was physical but this league is more defensive minded physically than Turkey, where it was more of an offensive game,” said the former All-Big East 1st Team big man from Notre Dame, who played for the club Trabzonspor as a rookie in 2013-14.
“And the difference between here and Spain is that the game in Spain is a lot quicker and there is a lot more flow to the offensive plays whereas here there’s a little more physicality and that changes the flow on offense a little bit.”
Cooley played in Spain last season, moving to Liga Endesa side Unicaja Malaga after having been cut by the Cleveland Cavaliers and playing six games in the D-League for the Idaho Stampede.
“The Malaga offer was pretty insane. It was a position with good minutes for one of the best teams in the EuroLeague and the city of Malaga is incredible,” said the native of the northern Chicago suburb of Glenview.
“I wanted to play against the best and experience all these levels. The opportunity to play EuroLeague was just really tough to pass up.”
Then after winning the Las Vegas Summer League title with the Chicago Bulls this summer, Cooley decided on Ludwigsburg partially because of an uncertain market in Europe due to political turmoil in Turkey.
In the end, the German league has been a great fit for Cooley. And the toughness of the BBL has been a blessing because as he adds: “I can also get more physical.”
Cooley also possesses the high confidence that comes with having played in the NBA and dominated the D-League. After earning two 10-day contracts with the Jazz, Utah signed him until the end of the 2014-15 season. He played a total of 16 games and averaged 1.7 points and 1.6 rebounds, including a memorable block versus Denver’s Gary Harris and 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in 17 minutes in Utah’s final game of the season.
But it was the time between those two 10-day contracts that etched Cooley’s name in the history of the D-League.
“I knew there were 10 days I couldn’t get called up by the Jazz. So I knew I had four games in those 10 days to show the Jazz and everybody else in the NBA that that was where I belonged. And I went on a pretty ridiculous tear during that run,” Cooley said.
Ridiculous is putting it mildly as Cooley averaged 21.8 points and 20 rebounds in the four-game stretch including breaking the D-League record for rebounds with 29 while scoring 27 points against the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
“That was really fun, but that was me being motivated instead of being angry and it worked out very well,” Cooley said with a laugh.
Is Cooley motivated to get back to the NBA?
“The NBA is not such much of a dream any more but more of a goal,” he said. “It will always be there for me as long as I feel I can compete at that level. And at this point, I still think that I can.”
But the NBA will have to wait.
“As far as goals, the NBA is a distant one. As soon as the season starts and I get to a team wherever that is, my personal goals go secondary to the team goals. My goal is to make the playoffs and then do well in them. That’s what’s in the forefront of my mind right now.”
That and feeling as comfortable as ever.