Duke may have suffered a frustrating loss in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, but no one will deny that the school/team's history simply oozes greatness.
And while last summer's NBA Draft was headlined by the likes of Duke alums Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, fellow standout Quinn Cook has been laying down the groundwork for his own path to The Association all season long.
Cook has quickly emerged as one of the D-League's best players. At 6'2" and 185 pounds, he's seemingly found the perfect balance between attacking the basket and creating his own opportunities. In addition, he's been getting teammates involved via the pick and roll and drawing defenders in, opening things up as he penetrates. Given his basketball upbringing, he's a very smart player. Cook is averaging 19.2 points on an impressive 47% from the field, 38% from deep, and 86% from the charity stripe. He's a threat from all around the perimeter, but his 5.2 assists also prove he has the vision necessary to keep double-teamming defenders on their toes. The young gun has been a huge key in Canton's 29-17 record thus far.
After establishing a champion's mentality at Duke, Cook has been able to carry his winning ways over to the minor league. His impact on the team's success is undeniable, but there's no doubt being part of such a positive environment continues to aid his own growth.
"It's helping me a lot. I'm seeing what it takes to win at a professional level," he told RidiculousUpside.com. "I've tried to be a leader here this whole time. We've had ups and downs, but everyday I feel like we get better. I've gotten better."
Cook has a great deal of pride playing for Canton, the NBA affiliate of the Cavaliers (with whom he spent NBA training camp). Cleveland was his late father's hometown team. Being able to showcase his talents under an umbrella that holds personal ties is "an amazing opportunity," the young gun conveyed.
As for his time at Duke, it definitely left a lasting impact on, not just the player, but the person, he is today.
"I was there for the full four years, so I had an opportunity to learn a lot. Coach [Krzyzewski] was like a father to me," Cook explained. "I became a better man first, then a basketball player. That's a big reason why I went there."
Playing at Duke doesn't mean a player can't or won't encounter respective ups and downs along the way. Cook has a lot of fight in him and knows what it takes to persevere. Such a mentality is one that will benefit him as he continues along his path.
"We lost in the first round twice. I had been hurt. I didn't play sometimes," he explained about his collegiate career. "I wasn't always the primary guy on offense. I've been on both sides of it. I know how to talk and relate to different guys. I definitely played with great players."
Cook is upbeat about this next phase of his journey, much like he was while playing at Duke. As he continues to thrive in the minor league in hopes of breaking down the door to the NBA, he simply said, "I'm playing basketball for a living. Staying motivated is easy. Things could be worse. I might not be playing at all."