Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday Where Are They Now? (on Thursday): Omar Cook

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Omar Cook, St. John's

Omar Cook was supposed to be another in the long line of superstar New York City point gods. Cook was a McDonald's all-american his senior year Christ the King high school before heading to St. John's University in Queens. He only played for the Johnnies for one season (2000-2001), but he was fantastic for that one season. Cook not only averaged 15.3 ppg, but he led the Big East (and was second in the country) with 8.7 apg while averaging 2.3 spg. No one can argue that Cook was a great playmaker - he had the typical NYC point guard swagger and handle, being able to shake just about any defender while seemingly always finding the open man.

While Cook could always make the spectacular play, there were really two fatal flaws in his game - he too often would try to make the difficult play and end up turning the ball over (he averaged more than 5 turnovers in his one year) and he couldn't shoot (in 29 games, he shot 220 3's and only made 68, a crisp 31% clip). Still, he was talented enough for the Orlando Magic to take a chance on him with the 32nd pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, but his NBA career wouldn't last much longer than that. He was almost immediately traded to Denver, who would end up cutting him in training camp. Over the next four years, Cook would bounce around between NBA rosters and the Fayetteville Patriots of the NBDL. All told, he would be on the roster of (or signed for a short time by) - Dallas (2001), Boston (summer 2002), Orlando (training camp 2002), Indiana (training camp 2003), Portland (2003-04, played in 17 games), Charlotte (training camp 2004), and Toronto (2005, played in 5 games). Cook's NBA career totals were 22 games with averages of 1.7 ppg and 2.1 apg. During those four years, Cook also averaged 38 games a season for Fayetteville, scoring 10.1 ppg and handing out 7.4 apg.

After four years trying to make it in the NBA, Cook headed overseas. Cook bounced around Europe for a little while as well, playing for Dexia Mons Hainaut (Belgium), Samara (Russia), and Strausburg (France) during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. In 2007-08, Cook joined Red Star Belgrade of the Serbian League. Cook ended up playing in 43 total games with Red Star, with 14 of those coming in the ULEB Cup. Cook average 16.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, and 3.0 spg in Red Star's 29 Adriatic League games, and led the ULEB Cup by averaging 6.1 apg while also posting 15.2 ppg and 2.4 spg.

Cook apparently enjoyed his time in the Balkans, because during the summer of 2007, he applied for and was given a passport and citizenship in Montenegro. This is important for two reasons, especially dealing with FIBA's international regulations. For one, he will be able to compete internationally with the Montenegrin national team because he is a citizen of the country (kind of like what Becky Hammon did with Russia). But since he has a foreign passport and citizenship, he does not count as an american player (European leagues have limits on the number of americans allowed on a team's roster). This is a smart move by Cook, because it increases the number of teams that are able to sign him and thus increases his value as a player.

Cook recently signed a two year contract with Unicaja Malaga of Spain's top league, a team that reached the Euroleague during 2007-08. Joining Cook on Malaga is Marcus Haislip from Tennessee, Robert Archibald from Illinois, Thomas Kelati from Washington State, and former NBA players Boniface Ndong and Jiri Welsch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a St. John's alum, and was a student during the time that Omar played for us. I have to say that I was very surprised when Omar opted to enter the draft after only 1 season in college, during that time there was a plethora of guards in the draft that were quite frankly better than him. Also he was not the great player that everyone had him out to be, but after maybe 3 years at SJU he may have developed the skill sets necessary to enter the big league. I do not blame Omar for his decision, but I do blame the people around him that most likely did not have his best interests or were not bright enough to see that he was not NBA material yet. Unfortunately he will go down as another what if. Notwithstanding that, I am sure he is making a great living doing what he loves and not too many people can say that.