Tyler Cook flirted with becoming a professional basketball player up to the final hours in which he had to choose to go pro or remain an Iowa Hawkeye.
The love with the league wasn’t mutual, and the junior-to-be power forward ultimately decided his best decision for a future career in pro ball was one more season in college. Thus, the junior-to-be withdrew from the NBA draft Wednesday, the deadline for early-entries into the draft who hadn’t signed an agent.
“I am excited to return to Iowa for my junior season,” said Cook in an Iowa sports information press release. “I am grateful for the opportunities and feedback that I have received from NBA personnel. I am thankful for Coach (Fran) McCaffery and the coaching staff for their assistance and patience with me during this process. I thank God for the experiences that I had and progress I have made during this time. I can’t wait to get back to work and continue to try to lead this team back to the NCAA tournament. I appreciate the love and support by all during this process.”
Said McCaffery: “We are happy to have Tyler back for his junior season. Tyler is an extremely talented young man who will continue to work tirelessly to reach his potential and ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. We encouraged Tyler to take advantage of this process and take as long as he needed and I’m proud of how he went through this process.
“Tyler did well in his workouts and interviews, which will bode well for him next year when he goes through the process again. He has had a significant impact on our basketball team the past two seasons and we look forward to Tyler improving his overall skill set and being a leader for us next season.”
Iowa enters the 2018-19 season with its top nine scorers returning from last season, led by Cook, their top scorer (15.3 points per game) and rebounder (6.8). He had games of 28 points against Indiana and 26 against Michigan State in February, and played 39 minutes in the Hawkeyes’ season-ending overtime loss to eventual national runner-up Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
When he signed with Iowa out of St. Louis, the 6-foot-9 Cook was the highest-touted recruit Fran McCaffery had landed in his time as the Hawkeyes’ coach. Cook was the No. 38 player in ESPN’s Class of 2016. He and Jayson Tatum, now a lauded rookie with the Boston Celtics, helped Chaminade High win the 2016 Missouri Class 5 championship.
Cook averaged 12.3 points as a freshman for a Hawkeyes team that went 19-15. He was a focal point for the 2017-18 Iowa club, a team that was a bust with a 14-19 overall record and 4-14 mark in the Big Ten.
This month, McCaffery said if Cook stayed at Iowa “I’d be surprised if he doesn’t take his game to another level and move himself into the first round (of the 2019 NBA draft). I think that’s a realistic goal for him.”
Cook was noncommital about returning to the team after Iowa’s final game of the 2017-18 season. He had workouts with Boston, Cleveland, Denver and San Antonio this spring.
Iowa will be the only Big Ten team to return four players who averaged over 10 points per game last season. The others are junior-to-be guard Jordan Bohannon (13.5 ppg), sophomore-to-be Luka Garza (12.1), and guard Isaiah Moss (11.1), who was an NBA early-entry but will return for his junior season.
Other Big Ten programs were depleted by early-entries who decided to turn pro before their senior seasons. That starts with Michigan State, which has two probable lottery picks in Jaren Jackson Jr., and Miles Bridges.
Ohio State is losing first-team All-Big Ten player Keita Bates-Diop. National runner-up Michigan bids farewell to junior forward Moritz Wagner.
Among the many collegians who were early-entries but opted to return to school are Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, and Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr., and Isaiah Copeland.
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