Similar to Kevin McCullar Jr. who I profiled recently, Jalen Cook is a bit of a hometown hero, even after his transfer portal decision after his freshman season.
Unlike McCullar, Cook was a star in both basketball and football in the state of Louisiana, to the extent that he garnered football offers from high-level SEC programs like Georgia, Auburn, and Tennessee among other offers.
He ended up sticking with basketball following an illustrious career at Walker High in Walker, LA. Cook led his program to the 5A State Final Four in his final three seasons, including a championship title in his sophomore season.
He totaled 3200 points in his career with four selections to the All-District First Team and two MVP awards, as well as the USA Today and Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year awards. He finished as the 123rd overall player in the class and 2nd in the state of Louisiana before committing to LSU to play for Will Wade.
In the 20 games he appeared in, Cook didn’t play even 150 total minutes for the Bayou Bengals, totaling 62 points, and 16 rebounds, assists, and steals each. He did, however, shoot the ball well on 46/44/77 shooting splits on the very limited sample size.
Cook would go on to transfer in-state to Tulane to reunite with fellow former SEC guard Jaylen Forbes, who he played AAU ball with for the Louisiana Elite. Cook was much more effective for the Green Wave, bursting on to NBA Draft boards.
The deeper numbers from Synergy back up his efficient scoring profile as well, as he’s in an elite class especially on jump shots, both off the catch and off the dribble.
Functionally, Cook is a point guard that leverages that outlier shooting ability to open up other facets of his game, and he has to, given his 6-foot-nothing frame, though he does weigh in at 205 pounds.
His handles can be lethal at times, and he’s able to create space on shots that way pretty easily. Of course, that wouldn’t be as effective either if not for his ability to use the handles to apply them inside the three-point arc in getting to the rim.
Cook’s rim pressure is helped by his compact strength at 205 pounds, illustrated well in this Instagram post of his.
Coming back to the point about leveraging the scoring problem that he creates for opposing defenses, Cook does a great job of making the simple reads reacting as the defense collapses in to stop him. Sometimes he flashes pull-up scoring moves that open up lanes for cutters and other times it’s as simple as a drive and kick.
On the other end, we often see effective scoring guards – especially on the smaller end – find ways to be disruptive of opposing actions; Cook is no exception. Most notably when he’s at the top of the defense and not off in the corner, he’s able to switch actions and clog up passing lanes, frequently ending with deflections and turnovers.
Unfortunately for me, who wanted to see him develop in an NBA organization next year, Cook decided just hours ahead of the June 1 deadline to retain NCAA eligibility to stay at Tulane and withdraw from the 2022 NBA Draft pool.
And that’s okay because Cook has to improve more as an on-ball defender and in processing the more complex reads in distributing, but the foundation for an effective player is undeniable with him.
He’ll have a chance to lead what should be an improved Tulane squad that has a chance to make an NCAA Tournament, and those reps are arguably more important than what he could get for a G League affiliate in his rookie NBA season.
Categories: College Basketball