Oh yeah, what a feeling! Football is in the air which means Iowa Hawkeyesbasketball is right around the corner. We’ll be counting down the days, here and there, until Iowa’s first game tips off. The countdown continues with… Tyler Cook.
55: Luka Garza
51: Nicholas Baer
35: Cordell Pemsl
30: Connor McCaffery
Forward, 6’9”, 250 lbs
Junior, St. Louis (Chaminade Prep)
After flirting with the NBA — or G-League — for three long months (at least for Hawkeye fans), Tyler Cook is back in Iowa City equipped with a new list of things he must develop if he hopes to escape from the NBA fringe and a new number:
“I thought about changing my number to 25, but I wanted it to mean something,” Cook said. “I prayed about and I did some more reading. Five times five is 25, which is a symbol of the bible for grace multiplied. It’s kind of a symbol for personal growth off the court in terms of my faith and as a young man and also what I expect myself, my teammates, and the man above coming into this year.”
A five times as good Tyler Cook is a scary proposition.
As far as the development aspect goes, it seems like it’s off to a great start what with Cook participating and training in the Nike Basketball Academy; a skills development camp that former coaches and players open up to 25 of the nations best collegiate players. If that rings a bell, it’s because Peter Jok, Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White were also invited to this event the summer before breakout seasons.
It’s no secret that Cook’s athletic ceiling is greater than all three of the names I listed above. He enters the 2018-19 season as Iowa’s leading scorer (15.3 points per game), rebounder (6.8) and one of the best dunkers and double-double machines in the conference. Nobody is questioning that. What’s in question is Cook’s ability to grow within the less athletic aspects of the game. Has his vision and passing ability grown during the summer? Has guarding Kevin Durant for a session or two taught the junior how to not foul as much or rotate on help defense properly?
I’m willing to bet it all has.
Cook has one of the best work ethics on this Iowa team. As he’s made sure to tell us all, he’s constantly the first one in the gym and the last to leave. Plus, he already has a history of improving year-to-year after his bumps in minutes per game, points per game, rebounds, shooting percentage, assists, and free throw percentage (among others) from his freshman to sophomore season.
Doubting him making athletic changes in his game seems foolish. I’d even bet that his outside shooting will show a positive uptick this season.
But for me, the first question when talking about Tyler Cook is his leadership qualities. Is he the type of player that can lift his teammates up during those patented second half droughts? Is he the kind of guy that Fran McCaffery can run the offense through when nothing is going right and he’ll make good decisions? Can he force his will defensively when his shot and post game aren’t working?
Or will Iowa fans ultimately look back on the Tyler Cook era and think about him as a potential Ewing Theory Candidate?
“We have unfinished business here in Iowa City, and I want to help the program turn the corner,” Cook wrote in a recent article published for a faith-based website for athletes. ”I want to be here when we change the way people view Iowa basketball.”
“I’m not necessarily focused on what I need to do to get (to the NBA),” Cook said. “I’m just focused on what I need to do for us to win games. (To) do whatever we can do to make sure what happened last year doesn’t happen this year.”