Quinn Cook started driving in from the 3-point line, and then, suddenly, he stopped.
The Stanford defender flew by him, airborne, and Cook calmly set and fired. The ball swished through. The senior, who is trying to play more even-keeled, couldn’t help a little head bob as he ran back down the court.
So far, so good for Cook’s senior year, which rolled on with a 70-59 win against Stanford in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic final. Cook was named the tournament MVP.
It was two years ago in Duke’s holiday tournament in the Bahamas where Cook first burst onto the college basketball scene, earning MVP honors on a veteran-led team. That stretch represented the high-water mark of his career – at least until the first five games of this year.
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Cook is shooting with confidence for No. 4 Duke (5-0), and he’s seeing results. Against the Cardinal (3-1), Cook went 4-of-9 from 3-point range and finished with 18 points. He had a bit of a heat-check moment with Duke up 25-21 – from well off the line, Cook fired, and it swished true.
It was another Cook 3 that forced a Stanford timeout with 15:49 left to make sure the game didn’t get out of hand. Center Stefan Nastic had a point-blank, wide-open look at the basket – and managed to get blocked by the rim on a lay-in attempt. Tyus Jones grabbed the loose ball and fed it ahead to Cook, and the senior fired, watched it fall and held his position for an extra beat or two.
Nastic, a fifth-year senior, effectively shut down Jahlil Okafor inside for the first 30 minutes – Duke’s big man only went 1-of-5 from the field. Freshman Reid Travis also helped double-team Okafor in the post. Still, Okafor finished with the first double-double of his career (10 points, 12 rebounds), and his presence on the court opened up looks for Duke’s guards on the perimeter. The Blue Devils responded by hitting 36 percent (9-of-25) of their 3s.
The key for Cook to shoot well, according to coach Mike Krzyzewski, is to make sure he’s set before he lets it fly.
“When he isn’t moving on his shot, he can shoot with anybody,” Krzyzewski said in the preseason. “As a guy that has handled the ball a lot, you sometimes get into movement. And when you’re shooting, even that little subtle movement, and to have the discipline to be set when you don’t have the ball and something else is going on, to put yourself in a position to already be set.”
Cook has been trying to take advice from former teammate Andre Dawkins to heart – if you miss, move on, and know that statistics dictate that you’ll start hitting again soon. So far this year, the odds are in Cook’s favor – he’s 17-for-35 (49 percent) from deep thus far.
“Guys stay after practice, come back at night, get up in the morning and shoot,” Cook said. “That’s what happens when you work hard, you get good results.”
“Coach wants us to shoot our open shots. And we’re going to shoot them.”