Quinn Cook concedes he is “six-foot on a good day,” so it might seem difficult to find him multiple role models in the NBA, where there is a shortage of short guys. But Cook is keen on watching film of NBA guards, and he doesn’t just stick to watching one player.
He talks about Team USA guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams, who won gold medals with head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He has brought up Jason Kidd for the future Hall of Fame guard’s rebounding ability.
These days, he has been focusing on NBA Rookie of the Year favorite Damien Lillard while also spending some time watching Celtics guards Jason Terry and Rajon Rondo.
“They’re not the biggest, they’re not the fastest, but they play with a chip on their shoulder and with an edge,” Cook said. “That’s what I mold my game after—playing with that toughness.”
His preparation both on and off the court has shown this season, blossoming as Duke’s point guard with 11.8 points and 6.2 assists per game. Fortunately for Cook, being a film rat became much easier when each member of the team was given an iPad in the fall.
“Quinn can be in his dorm room, text me for something and 20 minutes later it shows up on his iPad,” said Kevin Cullen, Duke’s video coordinator and director of information technology. “It gives them the ability to study basketball on their own time, and Quinn has taken advantage of that as much as anybody.”
The film process is aided by Synergy Sports Technology, a company that records every basketball game—collegiate or professional—and provides game film and statistics easily organized by play type.
That means Cullen and his assistant Casey Stevenson can, with a few clicks, assemble a compilation of all of Kidd’s defensive rebounds. Then the pair will narrow it down to the best 15 or 20 clips and send them to Cook. The same goes for high-ball screens, which Cook and Mason Plumlee said will increasingly be part of the offense with senior forward Ryan Kelly out indefinitely due to a foot injury.
Speaking prior to Duke’s loss to N.C. State last weekend, Plumlee said the high-ball screen with Cook was one of the main reasons Duke thrived in the second half of the Clemson game with Kelly sidelined.
“Me and Mason, we have great chemistry off ball screens,” Cook said. “Coach [Krzyzewski] sees that it’s been working so I think we’ve been practicing more on it, and it’s been one of our strengths.”
As a result, Cook has most recently been watching film on Lillard and former Duke guard Kyrie Irving, who have made ball screens the bread and butter of their NBA success. The film has also taught Cook lessons on the defensive end—always looking to convert his small stature into craftiness, he has learned he needs to be as big of a nuisance as possible to the opposing ball-handler.
“Just try to be as annoying as you can, and just try to be a little pest,” Cook said. “Because you’re smaller and a little closer to the ground, for high-ball dribblers it can be tough for them to run the offense.”
Other players will take cues from the coaches on what NBA players to study. Cullen said the coaches suggested Marshall Plumlee observe the play of 7-foot center Omer Asik, who is averaging a double-double this season with the Houston Rockets.
These extra film sessions extend to watching opponents as well. Cullen will typically compile video of four or five plays on an opposing player for the team to all watch together, but he is able to provide a player such as Cook with an extra batch of clips on an opponent he might be matched up against, like Georgia Tech’s Mfon Udofia. Additionally, every one of Duke’s previous practices and games is readily accessible on the iPad at any moment. Cullen said the introduction of the iPad has probably created three to four times as many requests for film from the players.
And if there’s one thing to watch closely for in the film of Thursday’s game against the Yellow Jackets, it’s the small chip on Cook’s shoulder.
“Whether it’s J.J. [Redick], Kyrie, Nolan [Smith]—when they were at their best, they were mad at something, and they turned that into being a great basketball player,” Cullen said.