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Pirate Notebook No. 240
Friday, May 6, 2005

By Denny O'Brien

Cook loss a blessing in disguise


Life at East Carolina will continue without Mike Cook. The case can even be argued that the quality of it within the basketball program has improved now that the embattled guard will finish his career elsewhere.

Perhaps no player in ECU's hoops history was more of an enigma. Though as physically gifted as any to ever wear a Pirates uniform, Cook also was one of the most challenging to coach.

The optimism following Cook's first season couldn't have been higher.  After averaging double figures in scoring and ushering a no-fear approach into the program, many felt the streetballer from Philadelphia would develop into the best in school history.

He was tough, had an infectious swagger and an incredible knack for creating his own shot in traffic. The more chaotic the game's pace became, the better Cook performed. The more off balance he appeared to be, the higher was the percentage that his shot would tickle the twine.

"I've seen him for about three years," Virginia coach Dave Leitao said last year while at DePaul. "I remember him as almost like a four man, a wing player who bodies guys down low.

"To make the transition as he has is amazing, and to play it so confidently is even more amazing from the standpoint of this team has been together for a little while. They've got some seniors who have contributed a lot of games for Billy (former ECU coach Bill Herrion).

"To have a guy step into that role and play like he's been here for a long time is very unique in today's game. It speaks to his level of maturity."

An evaluation after year two would read much different. While his scoring production improved, Cook's inability to make sound decisions often outweighed those contributions.

His natural inclination was to shoot, and at times it seemed as if he was on a mission to launch at least 20 shots from the floor. That's a generous number even for the purest of shooters, a distinction with which Cook has never been associated.

On a good night, he was at best an average perimeter shooter. But on most occasions, he reinforced the fact that his outside shot was one of the glaring weaknesses of his game.

And that wasn't the area in which he struggled the most.

Cook's carelessness with the basketball was an Achilles' heel that often kept the Pirates in jeopardy of 20-turnover performances. His lack of intensity and determination as a defender surfaced gaping holes that often led to easy baskets for the opposition.

In a nutshell, Cook is a true tweener whose basketball niche to date has been almost exclusively as a scorer. His success moving forward will depend largely on where he lands and his ability to mature, as well as his willingness to sharpen all areas of his game.

Two years into his college career, Cook has neither the skills nor the demeanor to handle the chores of an adequate floor general. His outside shot isn't consistent enough to be a true two-guard and his height can be an issue against many small forwards.

He may best serve his next team in a supporting role, playing 20 minutes and providing spurts of instant offense.

This isn't to suggest that Cook won't be missed. To a certain degree, he leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.

Of all the players on last year's roster, he was the only one capable of taking complete control of a game by shouldering the scoring load. On any given night, Mike the Magician could Houdini his way to 25 points.

But in the end, there were just too many nights when his exceptional talents were not apparent or were more than offset by his deficiencies — especially during times of adversity.

When Cook's shot didn't drop, the other areas of his game suffered and there was a noticeable lack of effort. And judging by his mannerisms, it was apparent that the numbers on the stats sheet carried more weight than the ones on the scoreboard.

It's for this reason that Cook's departure could prove healthy for the program as a whole.

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02/23/2007 01:59:57 AM

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