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On Senior Night, Malik Cooke Reflects on Time at Carolina

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The lone senior on the 2011-12 Men's Basketball squad, Malik Cooke has been a team leader on and off the court. He leads the team in points (346), points per game (12.4) and steals (49) for the 2011-12 season. The Charlotte native graduated with a degree in sociology in December and will play in his final home game as a Gamecock tonight at 8:00 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena vs. Mississippi State. We caught up with him to reflect on his time at Carolina.

You can also get to know more about Malik in his Gamecock Spotlight:

So with Senior Night, what's going through your mind about the final home game?

Just a lot of emotions, happy that I was able to come here and be a part of something as big as this, and sad that it's really coming to an end.

Do you have a lot of family coming to the game since they're just up the road in the Queen City?

Yeah, I've got a few people coming, my parents of course, cousins, grandmother, uncles and a couple friends. It'll be good that my family gets to see me play what could be my last game ever, maybe.

You graduated in December with your degree in sociology. What have you been working on since then and what's your game plan once the season is over?

I'm just taking a few classes that I was interested in, a women's studies class, an African American studies class, a retail/fashion class and a religion class.  I'm definitely going to finish up those and after that just go from there and play it by ear.  See what happens after the season and if I have a chance to continue playing, we'll see. I'm interested in coaching basketball, but I definitely want to own my own business one day.

What would you say you have learned the most from your time here at Carolina?

I've definitely learned that you have got to come out and just work hard every day.  I definitely took that from here and that will take you a long way.  I've also learned about making relationships with people and just meeting a lot of different people.  I took that from here too.  That's a good thing to do.

What are some of your favorite memories from Carolina? 

I can't say I just have one favorite memory but the people I've met, like all my teammates and all my friends I've made since I've been here.  They've all been great people.  I'm definitely going to miss everybody from my coaches to my teammates to my friends around campus.

You're a pretty funny guy;  I know you like to be comedic.  Any funny stories or memories? Are you a prankster?

I just do jokes a little bit but I can't say I'm a crazy prankster unless someone gets me then I have to get them back.  A funny moment I've had here? Man, it's been crazy. Every day, honestly, there is something new that I laugh at, especially at my teammates.  It would probably have to be conditioning stories, those would probably have to be the funniest. Like it's bad when you're going through it but when you step back and look at it, after the fact, it's pretty funny.

It has been a tougher year, not quite what you guys had hoped for, but how do you cope or deal with that?

Really it's just about coming out and working hard.  Just trying to bounce back and learn from your mistakes.  We're a young team and we knew we were going to have some ups and downs this year.  Really the key is to just come out and work hard every day and try to bounce back.  That's all you really can do in a situation like this I feel like.

I think what a lot of people noticed about you individually and about the team as a whole is that you never gave up. Anytime you're on the court you always play hard. As the only senior, how do you think you've been able to help the younger players?

Definitely just keep working hard and make the most out of your time here because it goes by fast.  My advice would be to just keep working hard and working on the things that you need to get better at and once you do that everything else will come.  The team will be better if everyone does that.

With that never-give-up playing style, what's going through your mind on the court, during a game?

I really just try to take it a position at a time.  Sometimes I move a little fast and my coaches have to remind me to slow down a little bit and I really just try to slow down and out-think my opponent.  That's what I try to do really, to be honest.

What are your thoughts as you leave about the direction of the program and building the program?

I think the program is going to go up from here, to be honest with you. That's not me being biased or anything I just think we have a lot of good players and a lot of youth. Everyone comes out and works hard every day and they definitely work on their game and they want to get better and they want to learn.  They're coachable.  So I think when we've got players like that the direction can only go up from here really. 

Will we see you back on campus a lot?

Yeah, I only live an hour away so I definitely think I'll be back and forth and in contact with some of the guys and talk to them about their next season and after.

Any closing thoughts about your final home game and your time at Carolina?  

I'm definitely going to miss you guys and miss everything that South Carolina stands for but I had a great time here.  It was a great experience.  I learned a lot from the coaches and the environment here and the players and everything.  I'm definitely going to miss it.  I see nothing but great things coming for South Carolina in the future.

Head Coach Darrin Horn on what he'll miss most about Malik:

"I think just "Cookie" [referring to his nickname].  Obviously, he's been a player that's been pretty steady for us and has produced some solid things but I think more than anything I'll miss just the person that he is.  He's a great guy to be around.  He's been a terrific teammate and he's been an asset to our program."

Click here to hear more from Coach Horn on Malik and tonight's game vs. Mississippi State.

Thank you to Malik for being a great Gamecock!

The Gamecocks tip off at 8:00 p.m. vs. Mississippi State in the final home game of the season at Colonial Life Arena.

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