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NORTH LIBERTY — The Prime Time League is prone to hyperbole when talented Division I men’s basketball players put on a show in front of a crowd.
But it’s difficult not to drape cliches around incoming freshman Tyler Cook after his PTL debut. Iowa’s four-star recruit from St. Louis put on a five-star effort Thursday night. On his first shooting attempt, Cook took a transition pass from teammate Jeremy Morgan and threw down an effortless one-handed slam. He followed up a few possessions later with a drive and a left-handed dunk.
Cook got away with a push but still completed a shot, was fouled and knocked down a free throw. And he was just getting warmed up. In the second half Cook electrified the crowd with two more thunderous dunks. He finished with 27 points, connecting on 10 of 19 shots overall with eight rebounds and a pair of assists.
Cook’s size coupled with his athletic ability is somewhat foreign to those who’ve followed Iowa men’s basketball in recent years. He’s 6-foot-9, thick, chiseled and displays unique, yet unrefined, skills.
“Tyler’s a freak, man,” said Iowa sophomore forward Ahmad Wagner, who often matched up with Cook. “Super athletic, can jump, he can play inside-outside. He’s going to be a good tool for us this year. I’m happy we have him.”
“Every single day,” said incoming freshman guard Maishe Dailey said of Cook’s performance. “He’s consistent with what he does. He’s a really athletic, strong, smart basketball player.”
Cook helped St. Louis Chaminade to the Missouri Class 5 state title last March. He played alongside national player of the year Jayson Tatum, who will attend Duke this fall. Cook scored 12.2 points and grabbed 6.4 rebounds a game. He added 22 steals and 54 assists. He connected on 60.9 percent of his shots but hit no 3-pointers.
At Iowa, Cook will play both inside and outside. Refining his all-around game is a priority.
“My role has kind of changed since I’ve got here at Iowa,” Cook said. “But I’ve been trying to do the same thing ever since I’ve been playing high-level basketball. Just playing above the rim is what everybody knows me for, so I’m not getting away from that at all. I’m just rounding out my game; that’s what I’m working on.”
Cook attempted seven 3-pointers on Thursday and connected on one, so that part of his game remains in transition. But his winning attitude and self-confidence is evident. He wants to fit in and enhance a winning culture at Iowa, based on three consecutive NCAA tournament berths. But he’s already shown in a short time that he’s not afraid to take charge, either.
“These guys are already used to winning, coming off a great season last year, kind of fell off a little bit,” Cook said. “But I’m kind of bringing some more of that winning mentality. I’m not used to losing, so I don’t want to get used to losing. Just more of that, ‘Come on, you’ve got to be a dog for me.’ Like an attitude that you can lean on at any time of the game, offense, defense, anything. More of that.”
Consider Cook’s debut a winner. He produced highlight-reel plays and won over the crowd, which offered rousing applause when he left the court. In fact, on Hawkeye Report’s “Hawkeye Lounge” message board had a thread that read “Tyler Cook one and done?” The superlatives sometimes get away from some people. But Cook’s promise is impressive, nevertheless.
“Even though in the PTL people don’t play a lot of hard defense, the guy does that all the time,” Wagner said of Cook. “He’s amazing. All of our guys are playing really well in practice, in workouts. What you saw of him is what you’re going to see this year.”
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