Cavs' Cook soaking up veteran advice
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Growing up in America's capital and his hometown of Washington D.C., Quinn Cook remembers the first time he wore the jersey of a man he grew up idolizing: LeBron James.
"I had his high school jersey when I was about 10 years old," said the rookie Cook, a Cleveland Cavaliers training camp invitee. "I had his first rookie jersey, his shoes. I mean, I’ve got LeBron’s on now. I can remember going up to Philly watching him play Strawberry Mansion."
Over a decade later, James and Cook are both donning the wine and gold as teammates, and the rookie guard is soaking up all he can from the NBA’s 4-time MVP.
"To have him here teaching me -- he’s helping me with my pick-and-roll defense -- is just a humbling experience."
However, James isn’t the only teammate that the now 22-year-old admired during his youth. Cavs' offseason acquisitions Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson, along with the returning James Jones were all revered by Cook when he was just a kid watching the NBA.
"This is a blessing," he said. "To be a part of this organization, my first practice is everything I dreamed it would be. Learning from guys that you grew up idolizing and following their whole careers when you were younger and these guys in front of me teaching things -- it’s a blessing."
After Labor Day weekend and on his first day at Cleveland Clinic Courts, Cook became fond of Williams and another player he looked up to -- J.R. Smith.
[pullquote]"Learning from guys that you grew up idolizing and following their whole careers when you were younger and these guys in front of me teaching things—it’s a blessing."[/pullquote]
"I grew up watching him,” Cook said. “He’s a Jersey kid, so he was close to D.C. Those two have been here. A lot of guys haven’t been here because they’ve been with their families and doing other things, but those two have been here, so I’ve grown pretty close to them."
Standing in at 6-foot-0, the rookie guard said that Williams -- who is only an inch taller -- has worked with him on improving the quickness of his jump shot. But in general, Cook said the seasoned guards have just given him veteran advice.
"Those guys have taken me under their wing," he said. "They're just teaching me how to take care of my body, stuff off the court to get yourself better for on the court, getting here early and just being a pro’s pro."
But outside of the opportunity to work with his favorite childhood players, Cook still wasn’t completely in the dark when he joined the Cavalier organization.
Kyrie Irving, a fellow alumnus of Duke University, established a friendship with Cook before he even committed to play ball under world-renowned head coach Mike "Coach K" Krzyzewski. Although the two never shared the court in front of the Cameron Crazies, they share a close bond. In fact, according to the rookie guard, Irving played a large role in recruiting him as a future Blue Devil.
Four years later, the two are reunited as teammates for the first time at the professional level.
"Just growing up playing against him -- he was a year older than me, but we were playing against the same competition and same camp, so we’ve grown extremely close," said Cook. "He went to school with everybody I played with, so we have an extremely close and extended relationship. He’s teaching me a lot as well."
A highly touted recruit out of high school, Cook wasn’t your typical one-and-done college prospect. His career at Duke lasted four years, improving and maturing with each season—and it concluded with a national championship in April.
"I had to run my race and just get better," he said. "I felt like I got better every year and I left as a champion. There's no better way I could've left."
Having been taught by "the best coach in the business," Cook said that Coach K taught him how to become a man, as well as other things off and on the court.
"Coming in and working," Cook said. "A lot of stuff that we did here [Tuesday], I picked up quick because we did it at Duke."
As one of five players that was signed to a training camp deal, Cook isn't worried about the Cavs' guard-heavy roster when it comes to making the team.
"I’m going to work my butt off regardless of if it was seven point guards," Cook said. "I mean, if they brought me in -- or if any team brought me in -- just for training camp, I’m going to work my butt off and learn a lot and get better. Let the chips fall where they may lay. I’m just trying to get better every day."