College basketball OFFICIALLY starts November 11, 2016. As a frequent flyer of the BTPowerhouse website, I’m positive you already knew this. BUT with less than 100 days until the Iowa Hawkeyes open up against the Kennesaw State Owls at Carver Hawkeye Arena, I felt I had no choice but to go Hard Body Karate and give our wonderful community members the finest Iowa Hawkeyes prep guide for the 2016-17 season.
Today, it’s finally time for me to talk about Tyler Cook.
Before I even begin diving into the many, many reasons why watching Tyler Cook play basketball will show you all the true meaning of life, it’s necessary to know that every morning, I jump out of bed, throw on my J.R. Angle jersey that I bought on eBay, and do this between three and four times:
It terrifies my fiancé, but I can’t help it.
Cook — the 38th ranked recruit in 2016 according to ESPN — was/is one of the most coveted forwards in the entire nation. He not only held offers from schools like Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois and Marquette, but he was also being pitched by powerhouse programs such as Florida, Kansas, Michigan and Virginia (it would be hard for me to say “No Thanks” to Tony Bennett and his boyishly good looks).
But he chose Fran McCaffery and the Iowa program because, well, he “just felt comfortable” with our guys.
Pinch me, please.
I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked any more when I read that there are actual, talented, highly touted recruits out there that have built up nice rapport with McCaffery and Sherman “Sherm” Dillard and Andrew Francis and Kirk Speraw. Together, they have continuously brought in solid three star recruits while completely resurrecting this program from the depths of Dante’s Fifth Circle.
Hell, the folks behind Hawkeyesports.com admitted as much:
Francis has helped rejuvenate the Iowa basketball program since arriving at Iowa in 2010.
Now you know things were bad when the Athletic Department adds that to a coaches bio.
But there was a little bit of a lull there from this staff when it came to landing guys like Cook, who is by far the biggest signee to come to Iowa City to date. The 6’9” forward is this coaching staffs third “ESPN100” recruit and the first since Adam Woodbury (39th according to ESPN) and Mike Gesell (75th according to ESPN) shocked us all with their dual signatures in 2012.
While Cook currently sits only one spot ahead of where Woodbury once was in those same ESPN ranks, Cook as a true freshman is ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, fifty times the offensive player that Woody was — even in his senior season at Iowa. He’s one of those offense altering, low post threats that can get a bucket when you desperately need them (something the Hawkeyes have lacked, something the Hawkeyes need desperately at the end and beginning of each half, and something I’ve begged for for years now). The type of guy that fits the mold of what McCaffery is trying to do at Iowa, but on a bigger, better scale.
In his first team all-state senior season, Cook averaged 13-points and seven rebounds per game on his way to the 2016 Missouri Class 5 championship. He’s explosive when he gets on the block and extremely efficient when he bowls his way to the rim. He’s also one of the premier offensive rebounders and one of the better finishers that you will see in this entire class.
That collegiate ready, offensive game was already on full display in this summers Prime Time League.
Now, before we even dive any further into this, I am obligated by law to give you the PTL disclaimer: You need to take these stats with a grain of salt due to the fact that nobody plays defense in the PTL. It’s the summer. It’s summer basketball. McCaffery is in the stands and not on the sidelines. And the glorified local business owners that “coach” these teams aren’t the most inspiring when it comes to getting their guys to “hunker down and play some D”.
BUT, what he accomplished against his teammates and other members of the Iowa collegiate basketball community, is still exciting nonetheless:
22.1 points. 7.3 rebounds. 2.3 assists. 54.2% from inside the arch. 10-31 from down town (FROM DOWNTOWN!). For what the PTL is or isn’t, Cook was still down there banging against dudes like teammate Ahmad Wagner and UNI forward Klint Carlson, among others and getting his.
In fact, Cook was so good, that after his first game, my guy Mark Emmert of Hawk Central riled up all of Hawkeye Nation:
1. He’s ambi-dunk-sterous. The 6-foot-8 freshman forward is right-handed but his most emphatic dunks were with his left, including one late in the game that sent a jolt of electricity through the crowd.
2. He doesn’t mind contact. Initiating it. Absorbing it. Cook thudded to the floor three times on drives to the basket, popping up each time. He attempted nine free throws. He once tried to plow right through Hawkeyes teammate Ahmad Wagner, who is 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. It didn’t work.
3. He is already a crowd favorite. Cook is the most highly touted of Iowa’s five incoming freshmen, ranking 74th in the nation in Rivals.com's recruiting rankings. It was Cook the people came to see Thursday. It was Cook they left talking about.
I’m about ready to jump right out of my chair and through my wall from pure, Christmas-like excitement. After all, Tyler Cook is the best present Iowa fans can’t wait to unwrap since McCaffery was hired to take over for He Who Must Not Be Named.
And I can’t hardly wait to get my Nintendo 64 on in November: