116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Tyler Cook has something many players in the NBA G League seek, a resume featuring a substantial amount of NBA experience.
Between 2019 and 2022, the ex-Iowa standout played 65 games for the Cavaliers, Nuggets, Nets, Pistons and Bulls.
“You definitely get spoiled,” Cook said. “I spent three years in the NBA. You obviously get used to the fancy stuff: the private planes and all that stuff.
“There is a focus to try to get back there but for me, it’s just figuring out different and new ways to get better. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s going to take for everybody that’s been there and wants to get back.
“I’m trying to use this time and the resources here to make myself a better player. That’ll equip me for my next stint in the NBA.”
Now back in the G League with the Salt Lake City Stars, affiliate of the Utah Jazz, Cook has started 18 games and is averaging 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
“It’s been great. Since (the G League) Showcase, we’re focused. We’ve made a lot of improvements just from a team aspect,” he said. “It’s just always a process trying to figure out ourselves within the team concept and our teammates as well.
“Even since my days back at Iowa, that’s been one of my favorite parts (of the game), just the whole process. We’re starting to put things together now. I wish it could have happened earlier in the year, but it’s always a process. I’m enjoying that aspect of it and think we’re just getting better individually and as a group. That’s really all I can ask for.”
Between 2016 and 2019, Cook started 92 of 93 possible games for Fran McCaffery at Iowa and averaged 14.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
“Those are probably three of the most important years of my life. Those are the three years I really grew up,” Cook said. “It was my first time being on my own, living on my own, and having to figure things out and navigate life on my own.
“I was able to do that around some great people. Coach Fran and his staff, they made it as easy for me as possible. I don’t think I would have had the success I’ve had so far in my career if I had gone elsewhere from learning how to play the game, what it takes to win, and how hard it is to play this game at this level. Those are all things I learned there.”
And like many who have played for him in Iowa City, he credits McCaffery for helping him develop the skill set to reach and to stay in the NBA.
“He just made me realize what it takes to not only be a good player but a pro. He never really treated me as a college athlete or as an 18-year-old kid,” Cook said. “From the time I stepped on campus, he always held me to a higher standard.
“He let me know that me being OK wasn’t good enough. He always pushed me, didn’t let me get comfortable. He’d always tell me think about the next step, the next goal. I don’t think I would have made it to be able to play in the NBA and achieved those dreams without him treating me that way.”
At 25, Cook is considered a veteran in the G League. However, he doesn’t see himself as experienced just because of his age, but also because he has endured every type of situation a young player in the G League or NBA can see.
“To me, it’s less about years and more so about how have those years been. I do consider myself a veteran just because I have been through so many different situations,” he said. “I’ve been assigned, been on standard contracts making a ton of money, been on two-ways, been waived, cut, signed, and re-signed again, traded.
“I’ve been through all the different avenues, obstacles or hurdles that the game can throw to you. I’ve done all of those things. Those experiences give me that veteran title but allow me to share that knowledge with guys that may not have had those same experiences or guys that don’t necessarily know what’s going to come or what to expect. I can tell guys, prepare guys, and help them on their journey because I’ve seen just about everything.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.