Zia Cooke, Named One Of The Highest Paid College Basketball Players
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Zia Cooke, Named One Of The Highest Paid College Basketball Players

Zia Cooke (@zia_cooke) Twitter

For the first time in the history of March Madness, players can sign endorsement deals that allow them to capitalize off the use of their names, images and popularity.

Zia Cooke, a a junior guard and leading scorer for the University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, is winning on the court and off the court. She recently took home the tournament win in March, along with her teammates. This achievement coupled with her star reputation as an athlete speaks to why she has been named one of the highest paid college basketball players in the Final Four, according to Bloomberg.

And she is representing for all other Black female student-athletes.

“It just shows that we can do a lot of things that a lot of people say we can’t do,” she told CBS News. “To see all the girls on there for the NIL and I think it was just one boy it shows that we can do literally everything they can do. It’s a business and it’s super effective for women and men.”

The move of endorsement signing comes after a Supreme Court decision last summer that effectively upended years of resistance by the NCAA, which had blocked student-athletes from getting paid. Now, college athletes have the power to take control of their own athletic career, as sponsorships are considered.

In many cases, women have out-earned the men as brands tend to look at larger social media followings, as per CBS News.

With 225,000 Instagram followers, Cooke earns roughly about $7,923 on social media based upon her following, as reported by Bloomberg. She is among three other top earners in collegiate basketball as a whole.

Cooke recently signed a sponsorship deal with H&R Block as part of the financial services company’s “A Fair Shot” campaign. She takes pride in participating in a  initiative, which invests in female college athletes, to show off her authentic self.

“It gave me a chance to show who I am for one minute,” she said. “I’ve done DoorDash, which was also super fun. I did Bojangles deals and I’ve done Fenty Skin, Rihanna’s line, so I have quite a bit and it’s just the beginning. I’m excited for what else is in store.”

But for Cooke, she’s focused on bringing her best work on court and off court.

She continued: “I really don’t even want to know how much money I have,” she said. “I haven’t looked at the account since I’ve started. Now I’m just trying to stay focused on my best work….I want to save because once you see the prices, like you want to buy stuff like that.”