Cooking With Omar
Photo By Chris Aduama
"King of New York” – as it reads on his bicep, scrolled in dark ink – is no small statement. But when Cook had the tattoo done in his sophomore year at Christ The King High School, he had all the credentials to back up this phrase.
As superstar point guard in a city that prides itself on producing great floor generals, Cook was sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Tiny Archibald, Mark Jackson, Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury.
But if Cook is to one day play up to the lofty standards set by the men that came before them, he will have to take a much different route. After a stand-out freshman season at St. John’s University, he took the same path as many other former prep stars, declaring himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
But instead of being a first round pick - as many told him he would be - Cook slipped to the Orlando Magic in the second round. That’s where a whirlwind 12-month period began. It continued with brief stops in Denver and Dallas, and landed him in Fayetteville playing for the Patriots in the NDBL. After signing with the club on January 7, he went on to average a league-high 7.8 assists per game to go with a respectable 12.2 points per game average. The year-long span came full circle when the Celtics offered him a roster spot in the 2002 Shaw’s Pro Summer League.
He made his debut on Monday night, starting at guard and scoring 9 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 21 minutes of play.
For the player many called one of the top point guards in the college game just a year ago, it is not exactly the path he expected to follow. "I got to Denver and I thought I was going to be able to start or even play over there,” said Cook. “Then, I got to Dallas and I didn't even get a shot to play. The toughest thing is I haven't played in an NBA game yet. Another tough thing was when I went to the NBDL. I was there longer than I expected."
“So, it was real rough on me, knowing that I was doing what I had to do and playing hard and I had to stay there. I didn't think I'd have to be there for that long. So, it really started to get to me. I just kept my head. The long bus rides from state to state helped me out a lot. I think it [the experience] benefited me more than it hurt me."
Not only did he have to learn to swallow much of the pride he developed as a young superstar, but he has also had to figure out the weaknesses in his game that prevented him from remaining in the NBA the first time around, not the least of which was the effectiveness of his jumper. Over the past two months, Cook has been working hard at the Celtics practice facility, lifting weights and spending much quality time with Boston’s coaches on the court.
Considering all he has gone through in the past year, Cook now finds himself in an ideal situation in Boston. Currently, the Celtics depth chart at the point guard position reads Kenny Anderson followed by a series of questions marks. Anderson did a more than a capable job last season, and Tony Delk and Antoine Walker are capable of short stints at the position, but over the course of an 82-game season, a team inevitably needs legitimate depth. "As I understand it, if they like me after summer league, then they've got to guarantee me the rest of the season. If they don't then, they need to let me know after summer league."
"What's so good about me is I'm a guy who likes to give up the basketball first. I play hard on defense. I play hard on offense. But I'm a distributor. There's a number of scorer's on the team. That's where I think I benefit most. I'm not a guy who needs to score to play well. That's what separates me from a lot of the guards out there."