Meet the 51st-best point guard in the nation.
Actually Quinn Cook may not be number 51. All we know for sure is that he wasn’t listed in CBSSports.com’s Top 50 point guards in the nation.
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, who has yet to play a college game, is number 45.
Michigan’s Trey Burke, NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, Elijah Johnson of Kansas, Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Tennessee’s Trae Golden, and Belmont’s Kerron Jonson all made the list. That group combined to go 0-9 against the Duke Blue Devils during Cook’s freshman year.
Of course, they weren’t matched up with Cook for most of those games. Cook played a total of 53 minutes in the nine games against the elite point guards, an average of just under six minutes a game.
Cook missed the entire preseason recovering from a high-school knee injury. He caught up quickly, bringing energy to his stints running the team. He hit his stride at the end of Duke’s non-conference schedule, earning an ACC Rookie of the Week honor, before he went down again, with a lingering illness.
By the time he was back to full strength, he was too far behind to have a major impact on the Blue Devils season, playing briefly, when starting point guard Tyler Thornton got into foul trouble.
“The best players are in the best shape,” Cook said over the summer. “They never get tired. I wasn’t in shape like I was supposed to be last year, and I didn’t play. I’m spending the offseason getting in shape.”
“I don’t want to use it as an excuse,” he said. “I was dressed. I was on the court. But my game wasn’t where I wanted it to be.”
“I don’t think you saw what Quinn can do last year,” Nolan Smith said. Smith and Cook became close while Cook was still in high school, and Smith played a major role in his decision to come to Duke. “I don’t think people have gotten to see how confident he is, or how well he can score the ball. He’s going to take advantage of the work he did over the summer.”
He’s also spent the summer getting disrespected. In addition to the CBSSports.com slight, he also had to listen to everyone’s Lehigh jokes. The 15-seed Mountain Hawks bounced Duke from the tournament in the Round of 64.
“No disrespect to Lehigh, but we can’t go anywhere without hearing about it,” Cook said. “Speaking at camps, the kids would say, ‘Hey, Lehigh.’ It’s funny, but …”
Cook trailed off. Someone suggested an ending to his sentence. “But it’s not really funny, is it?”
“No,” Cook said. “No, it’s not.”
Cook enters his second season with a clearly-defined role. Coach Mike Krzyzewski declared him the starter at point guard at Duke’s season-opening media day. The declaration confirmed a decision that had been in the works for months.
Cook played on a summer league team with Duke’s incoming freshmen and roomed with incoming transfer Rodney Hood over the summer. “It gives me a chance to work on my leadership skills,” he said.
As practice opened for the season, Cook said he’d grown up since arriving on campus as a freshman. “I’m more mature,” he said. “One year at Duke is like three years at any other college.”
While the point guard is a key position for any team, Cook is quick to defer to the upperclassmen on the team. When asked if it was his team, Cook responded, “It’s the seniors’ team. It’s Mason, Seth and Ryan’s team.”
“But,” he added, “being a point guard, you have to take a leadership role out there. It’ll be my voice they hear. It’s my job to get everybody going.”
And if he does his job, he won’t be the 51st-best point guard in the nation for long.