It turns out, we may have been misled.
We were told that there would be a new-look Quinn Cook this season, as Duke’s offense revolved around Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood.
Instead, when the season began, we saw the same floor slappin', slobber sprayin', trash talkin', wild eyed. cant-stand-him have-to-love-him Quinn Cook, still slapping' chests & dishin' dimes
Two days before Duke’s opening game, Cook spoke to the media and then got up to leave the room.
He turned back and asked a question of his own to the reporters in the room. “Do y’all like my new haircut?” he asked.
Cook, who has had a closely cropped do for his first two years as a Blue Devil, is letting his hair grow out, a decision that the room assured him was a good look.
The longer locks were supposed to be the least of the changes Cook faced in the 2013-14 season.
Now an upperclassman, with a year starting at point guard under his belt, Cook had every reason to believe that the Blue Devils would be his team this year.
Instead, coach Mike Krzyzewski informed the team that, in order to take full advantage of Hood’s and Parker’s talents, the rest of the roster would take on a supporting role.
“I’m just playing off the ball more,” Cook said. “When Jabari or Rodney gets it, my job is to get out (on the break), because I’m a shooter. They can hit me for the shot. That’s really the biggest thing coach wants me to do. if those two guys get it, they want me to go.”
Cook as a shooter seemed to be a stretch. He shot just .416 last year. Only two Blue Devils shot worse, and one of them was Marshall Plumlee, who made just one of eight shots as an oft-injured freshman.
In addition, Cook is built to be a point guard. At six-feet even, his decision to grow out his hair may have been, in part, to add an extra inch or two to make him look more like a wing.
Plus, it’s not what Cook has done all of his life. “I’ve always had the ball,” he said.
While deferring more often and giving up custody of the ball would be tough on any floor general, Cook has said all the right things. “I like it better this way,” he said. “It makes my job a lot easier, because those guys can create opportunities for everybody else. So it’s fun.”
Still, Cook was clearly affected by the decision, as well as the team’s decision to anoint Hood, and seniors Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston as captains.
He used the phrase “it’s been tough” no less than five times in his brief press conference.
Coach K also appears to be using the tough love approach with his point guard. On the first day of practice in late September, Krzyzewski first compared Cook’s role to that of Chris Paul on the Olympic team. “LeBron, Kobe, and Carmelo don’t want to watch him dribble,” he said. “Quinn Cook’s role changes. He’s not going to be your conventional point guard, just coming down and running the offense. That’s not going to be what it is. We’re not going to run the offense like that.”
A few minutes later, Krzyzewski was asked if Cook was ready for the new role.
“You’re going to interview him,” he said. “You should always ask the kid, ‘Are you ready?’ I’d be interested in his response. You’re supposed to be ready. You’re responsible. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
“We’re not going to be really good unless we own it, take responsibility, and act like we’re men,” Krzyzewski continued. “No excuses. Just go after it.”
If early returns are any indication, Cook has accepted the challenge. He played 34 minutes in the opener, more than any other Blue Devil, and made 7 of 9 shots, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. His 21 points were one shy of Hood and Parker’s team-leading total.
But the most impressive part of Cook’s contribution to Duke’s 111-77 win over Davidson may have been his role in the offense. Turns out, the change may not be as seismic as initially promised.
Cook brought the ball up court and ran the plays on Duke’s first six possessions of the game, all of which ended with made shots. Twice in that game-opening spurt, Parker pulled down defensive rebounds, and the Blue Devils went off to the races. Both times, Parker gave up the ball to Cook before the two teammates passed halfcourt.
When the night ended, Cook had 8 assists, setting up one out of every shots Duke made while he was in the game, and 0 turnovers.
Cook also had just one personal foul, earning a personal victory in his other big adjustment at the start of the season. Officials are calling hand checking this season, a rules change that led to marathon, foul-filled exhibition games across the country.
Cook shrugged off the impact of the new rule, however. “It’s been tough,” he admitted, “but you’ve just got to stay focused on what the goal is at hand. If the rules change to where you can’t put the pressure you want to put on, you’ve got to adjust ... You’ve got to use it to your advantage.”
One game into the season, the advantage is all Cook’s.