A good point guard needs to be able to think two steps ahead and anticipate problems before they occur.
That’s why Quinn Cook takes his warm-up jersey off at the opening tip.
He’s done it each of the last three games, as he’s seen his number called by coach Mike Krzyzewski earlier and earlier. He entered after 4:10 against UNC-Greensboro, 3:30 against Western Michigan, and against Penn, he was sitting at the scorers’ table before three minutes had elapsed.
Each time Coach K has called for him, Cook has been ready, warm-up off. Was it psychology? An editorial comment that he should be starting? No. Like any good point guard, he’s just avoiding the trap.
“When I’d try to take it off, it would get stuck on my head,” Cook said. “I think it was I would get so nervous when it was time to go in.”
That’s Quinn Cook in a nutshell—anticipation, execution, and just a touch of goofiness.
So far this season, Duke guards have dominated the ACC Rookie of the Week Award. Miami’s Shane Larkin and B.C.’s Lonnie Jackson took home the prize the only two weeks that a Blue Devil didn’t. Shooting guard Austin Rivers has been honored twice, and Cook has taken the last two.
Each gives the team something no other player on the roster can. Coach K has said all season that Rivers is the team’s only real threat to drive and score. More recently, he’s crowned Cook as the team’s best playmaker.
Despite that, the two players couldn’t be more different. Rivers’ drives to the hoops are like watching a cat hunt its prey. He’s sleek, graceful, but lethal. His killer instinct is evident from the time he starts his dribble, eyes blazing, to the shot. When he gets knocked to the floor, as he often does, he continues to fight for his points, looking for the foul, then the and-one, then the intentional.
Rivers is the son of an NBA coach, and he plays like a professional, from his Jordan/Laettner level killer instinct on the floor to his TNT auditions for the media in the locker room afterwards.
Cook, on the other hand, plays like he won a contest. He does the things any of us would try at a fantasy camp. He sticks his tongue out after good plays, points at teammates who he’s just thrown a pass too instead of waiting for them to thank him for the dish and just generally squeezes every ounce of joy out of his playing time.
“I just give it all I’ve got when I’m out there,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s two minutes or 20 minutes.
No one would be reminded of a jungle cat on a Quinn Cook drive. If anything, it’s more like a puppy. While Rivers uses the cross-over dribble—a slashing move that often leaves his defender on the floor, Cook prefers to spin, whirling down the lane full of excitement, wondering what new toy he’ll find next. It could be Mason Plumlee at the rim, or Seth Curry waiting for the kick-out, or it could be a shot.
And when Cook is sent to the floor, it’s a mess of legs, elbows and grin as he scrambles back to his feet for more fun.
Coach K calls him “flamboyant,” and as his role has expanded, he’s given the team an injection of energy and fun.
“Guys love playing with Quinn,” Krzyzewski said. “Because he passes, and when he passes, he sees you in places where other people have a hard time seeing you.”
“He’s given us a reason to run, because we never know when he’s going to find us,” Seth Curry said.
In other words, he executes, but not in the way you’d expect.
While no one expects Cook to keep up his current pace, which includes a 19 assist, 0 turnover stretch, he can provide a jolt of energy and allow the team to push the ball on offense. Coach K might just have found the piece that’s been missing from his 2011-12 backcourt.
As long as his freshman point guard can keep from choking himself out with his warm-up.