In the week leading up to Duke basketball’s first game of the season Friday against Georgia State, The Blue Zone will preview all the expected contributors on this 2012-2013 squad, beginning with the freshman Monday and ending with the seniors Friday.
- Year: Sophomore
- Height: 6-foot-1
- Position: Point Guard
- Key statistics: 1.9 assists per game last season, while averaging under 12 minutes of action each game
Game breakdown: The long-lost brother of former Blue Devil star Nolan Smith, Cook has followed in the footsteps of his close friend, growing up in the Washington D.C. area, playing for the D.C. Assault AAU team, attending prep basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy and wearing No. 2 at Duke. Their animated personalities are also similar, which bodes well for team camaraderie. The two’s games are vastly different though. Cook, who stands just over 6-feet tall on a good day, relies on his in-game instincts and basketball IQ to be effective, given his lack size and elite athleticism.
With exceptional intangibles and a natural feel for the game, the nifty floor general has only shown brief flashes of brilliance so far in his Duke career. Much of the inconsistency to date can be attributed to a nagging knee injury that limited him much for much of his freshman campaign as he averaged a meager 4.4 points per game playing limited minutes.
At full strength, Cook possesses the ability to knock down treys from the perimeter and a crafty knack for getting to the cup. Even though Cook is the best ball handler on the roster, his decision-making has been questionable at times, but with a year of college experience under his belt those bad habits should be minimal going forward.
Role on the team: After a lackluster first year in limited duty, fans and coaches alike have high expectations for the healthy point guard this season. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is giving Cook the keys to the car this season by making him the team's starting floor general. Clearly, Krzyzewski is confident in the sophomore.
The squad’s success will largely hinge on his ability to take care of the rock and find open teammates. The DMV product will not be relied upon to score much as the team will get plenty of points from Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Alex Murphy and Rasheed Sulaimon. Rather, Cook has to be the man who makes sure those guys fill up the stat sheet by quarterbacking the offense.
To put it simply—the more assists the sophomore dishes, the better the 2012-13 season will be for Duke.
On the other end of the floor, equally pivotal to Blue Devil’s performance this season will be Cook’s pesky on-ball defense. Getting into passing lanes, applying disruptive ball pressure and not getting beat off the dribble are musts.
Player comparison: Cook’s stature and game bear a resemblance to D.J. Augustin, granted the former has not come close to matching the latter in productivity yet. Both are undersized point guards with the ability to score when called upon. They are confident, coachable and play with a lot of emotion each time they take the floor. To top it off, other players love playing with them due to their unselfish, team-first nature.
Projected stat line: 7.5 ppg, 5.0 apg and 1.5 stpg