Quinn Cook Ready to Make Impact in the NBA
Duke products Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones are projected to be first-round picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, with Okafor almost certainly going in the top two and Winslow potentially going in the top five.
But make no mistake, point guard Quinn Cook, who is also in this draft class, played an enormous role in the Blue Devils’ national championship run as well. Not only did Cook average a career-high 15.3 points, he emerged as one of the most important players and leaders on that squad.
“Quinn, that’s my brother for life, and he was everything to our team,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “He was our heart and soul. He was our top leader, being the oldest guy on the team. He was one of the hardest workers too, which made the rest of us work hard as well. He’s just an amazing leader. I think Quinn won his match-up against every point guard that he faced this year. He helped lead us to a national championship and I would love to have the opportunity to play with Quinn again. He’s just an amazing player and even better person.”
Some players may have been jealous of the attention that the freshmen trio of Okafor, Winslow and Jones received when they arrived at Duke, especially if one of the incoming talents played the same position as them (as was the case with Jones). However, Cook became a mentor for the younger players, developing a close friendship with them and leading the squad.
“He embraced the younger players who came in,” Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer said. “There was a lot of hype around them and the freshmen got a lot of attention, but Quinn did nothing but take them under his wing and lead them from day one. That says a lot about who he is; he’s secure and just wants to help the team.
“I think his relationship with Tyus, in particular, says a lot about who he is as a person and how confident he is as a player. He formed a bond with him and they had great chemistry on the floor. He helped Tyus tremendously. Tyus is quieter and as a freshman it’s tough to lead vocally, because you just haven’t gone through [a college season]. Tyus’ instincts are incredible and he led with his play, but Quinn was able to do it vocally and with his play. He led before, during and after practice, he made sure the team was always on the same page and he handled off-court things. Then, on the court, he and Tyus played off of each other’s strengths and really covered for one another. I think that’s something Quinn did an amazing job with and he really excelled. Also, there’s no quit in Quinn, and that’s something that affected our entire team.”
Cook’s season obviously ended with a national championship – the perfect way for a senior to wrap up his collegiate career.
“It was a dream come true,” Cook said. “It was an overwhelming experience because it was something we worked for all year. We became obsessed with winning the championship, so to finally see the confetti come down and hold that trophy, it was really emotional. Everybody was crying tears of joy and it was the best feeling, seeing all of your hard work pay off. The coaches, players, everybody was extremely happy. It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced.”
Looking back on his time at Duke, Cook spoke highly of the university, his coaches and his teammates and said he’ll always have fond memories of his four years there.
“It was great,” Cook said. “I came into Duke as an All-American and I had to learn. I had to sit on the bench and really focus. And I know in the league, I won’t come in and start or be a key contributor right away, I’m ready to be a role player and that’s what I did at Duke my first three years. This year, I had to step up and be more of a primary scorer and defender on the team alongside Jahlil and Justise. But I’ve played alongside a ton of talented guys, like Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Mason Plumlee and more great players. In the league now, you have to show that you have your special niche and that you can be a great role player and I’ve shown I can do that. Coach K has helped me a lot, just helping me mature on and off the court, and teaching me to be a pro. He’s also been helping me all through this process, and I’m thankful that I went to Duke. Coach and my teammates helped me tremendously over my four years.”
Now, Cook is preparing for the next level. He’s doing his pre-draft training in Washington, D.C. and has been working out for many NBA teams. He’s working out twice a day and watching a ton of film of point guards – starters and back-ups – so that he’s as prepared as possible for the league.
“I wake up at 8:30 and work out every morning at 9:00 until about 11:30 or 12:00,” Cook said. “Then, I’ll get some food and my agency’s building is located right next to my apartment where I’m staying, so I’ll head over to Tanner Sports, watch T.V. and chill with everybody in the company. Then, I go back and work out again around 7:00. It’s just like that every day. I’m working out a ton, grinding and getting a lot of reps. I’m also eating the right things and getting a lot of sleep. That’s what being a pro is about.
“The pre-draft process has been great. It’s everything that I thought it would be and I’m having a lot of fun. There’s a lot of traveling and working out for different teams, but this is the position that I’ve always wanted to be in. I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends who have been through this process and they’re giving me advice, telling me to enjoy it and not put too much pressure on myself. To have basketball as your job, I mean, that’s the best job in the world. I’m working hard, but having fun and enjoying it.”
Cook has a ton of friends in the NBA; he’s an extremely likeable guy and he has a huge circle of professional players he’s close to in and out of the league. When asked which players he has been receiving advice from, Cook elaborated and shared some of the words of wisdom he has heard.
“I talk to Victor Oladipo a lot, and I was with him during his [pre-draft] process two years ago,” Cook said. “He’s just been telling me, ‘Have fun going into these workouts. Don’t try to prove people wrong, just show what you can do and be yourself.’ Nolan Smith, obviously, is someone I’ve talked to a lot; Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal as well. Those four guys have really helped me throughout this process.”
At 22 years old and with four years of college experience under his belt, Cook is NBA-ready. He’s also someone who knows his role and is determined to help a team as a back-up point guard.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder my entire life and being a four-year college player, you’re kind of the underdog in the draft process because the younger guys are usually the higher picks because of potential,” Cook said. “And that’s fair, the GMs obviously know what they’re doing with their decision-making and scouting and all of that. But I do use that as a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always been one of the smarter guys on the floor and one of the hardest workers. I wasn’t the most athletic – I couldn’t jump the highest and I wasn’t the fastest – but I had that chip on my shoulder and I’ll always have that. Being a senior, contributing to a winning program and learning under Coach K, I think I’m ready to play right away and I’m ready to win. I want to go somewhere I can win right away and I’m going to bring that winning mentality to my next organization. I think Coach K taught all four of us in the draft this year to be prepared for the next level.”
Scheyer is confident that Quinn will be able to duplicate his success in the NBA.
“The one thing that I can say about Quinn is that he’s never going to be scared,” Scheyer said. “The moment will never be too big for him and he has a lot of confidence in himself. I definitely think he’ll do well in a role, whether it’s a few minutes or extended minutes, where he comes in and gives a burst. He can make plays, he can really shoot the ball, he can create and he can really, really guard the ball. I think those things will really help him.”
Cook studies many point guards, but he compares himself to someone like San Antonio Spurs reserve guard Patty Mills and sees himself having a similar role in the NBA.
“I watch all types of points guards – I’m a Synergy Sports and YouTube addict, so I watch everybody – but I compare myself to someone like Patty Mills,” Cook said. “Being someone who comes off of the bench, brings energy, plays good defense, shoots the ball and plays both positions – as he does alongside Tony Parker sometimes. He’s always ready and he’s a true professional. If he plays two minutes, he’s still excited and clapping on the bench. And if his number is called, he performs because he’s always ready. That’s one player that really sticks in my mind [and someone I compare myself to]. I watch a lot of back-up point guards right now to see how I can help a second unit when the starters aren’t in.”
Cook received positive feedback from team’s at the Combine and throughout the pre-draft process.
“They’ve liked me and have said that I can really defend the ball,” Cook said. “There were questions that GMs and teams had about me and my defense, but this year – being the primary defender on all of the better guards that we faced – it really helped me a lot. Coach K always challenged me throughout my college career and he made it clear that [playing high-level] defense is what I’ll need to do at the next level. They were really impressed with my defense. I know that I need to get stronger to guard someone like a Russ Westbrook, but I know I can adjust. My defense has been the biggest thing [that I’ve been getting feedback on] so far.
“The five-on-five element of the Combine really helped me, just showing that it’s not all about drills and measurements and stuff – we got a chance to play and get after it. I felt that I played well at the Combine. Winning a national championship was great as well. Now, it’s just going into these workouts and showing teams that I can run an offense at the point guard position, that I’m in great shape, that I can really defend the ball and that I’m a great leader. I’m going into these workouts with a chip on my shoulder, like I’ve always had. Hopefully my draft stock will keep going up.”
Cook could end up being a steal in this draft, a second-round hidden gem who is ready to contribute right away, be a glue guy and leader, do whatever is asked of him and know his role. He may not be getting first-round hype like his fellow Duke teammates or some of the other point guards in this draft, but that’s never stopped him from succeeding or carving out a significant role in the past.
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