By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Tyler Cook has nothing to lose by testing the NBA draft process.
His ego might take a hit based on what he learns about his draft status. But that should only add fuel to Cook’s fire.
He announced on Friday that he would go through the draft evaluation process, but without hiring an agent.
“After talking with the coaches and my family, I am going to test the NBA Draft process,” Cook said in a release sent by Iowa’s sports information department. “It is my dream to play professionally and not hiring an agent at this time allows me to see where I stand. I am following God’s plan and I am thankful for this opportunity. I appreciate all of the support that I continue to receive from Hawkeye nation.”
The NBA Draft Combine will be held May 16-20 in Chicago in preparation for the NBA draft on June 21. The deadline for early-entrants to withdraw is June 11. Until then, Cook can work out for NBA teams and learn more about where he stands as a draft prospect.
And as long as he doesn’t hire an agent, the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Cook would have the option of returning to Iowa where he could play next season as a junior.
You hope for the sake of the Iowa players and coaches that Cook makes his decision sooner than later so they have more time to react to whatever he decides.
But this decision also can’t be rushed because it could change the course of Cook’s life. He needs to give himself every opportunity to succeed and that could take some time.
“Tyler should take advantage of this opportunity and we fully support his decision,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “I have spoken with Tyler and his family in depth and believe this is the right decision. This relatively new rule is a positive one for those in pursuit of their professional dreams.
“Peter Jok went through it in 2016, and found it to be beneficial as it allows athletes to gather information through workouts and interviews from NBA personnel. We will assist Tyler every way we can throughout this process.”
Cook’s situation seems different than when Jok tested the NBA draft process two years ago. It just feels different because you knew that Jok almost certainly would return to Iowa for his senior season if the NBA said he wasn’t ready, which proved to be the case, whereas there is more uncertainty with Cook, or so it seems.
Jok had established deep and meaningful roots in Iowa after having fled from the Civil War in Sudan with his family when he was just 9 years old. His family ultimately settled in Des Moines with help from a refugee assistance program.
Jok was introduced to the sport of basketball shortly after arriving in Des Moines, and his life was changed forever. He became a star player for West Des Moines Valley and for the Iowa Hawkeyes, leading the Big Ten in scoring as a senior in 2016-17.
Jok had spent more than half of his life in Iowa when he tested the NBA waters. Iowa was his home and his sanctuary.
Cook, on the other hand, grew up in St. Louis and had no real connection to Iowa until he became a Hawkeye.
Cook is also testing the NBA draft process after a season in which Iowa finished 4-14 in the Big Ten and 14-19 overall, whereas Jok had played in three consecutive NCAA Tournaments when he submitted his name for early entry.
Jok obviously made the right decision to return for his senior season, considering he still is chasing his dream of playing in the NBA. Jok didn’t get drafted after his senior season, so it’s reasonable to think the same thing would have happened after his junior season.
Cook isn’t mentioned on any NBA mock draft lists of prominent sports websites. He was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media this past season.
Cook averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds for Iowa this season, starting every game at power forward. He had 82 turnovers, 58 assists, 21 steals and 20 blocked shots.
He also averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen team.
Cook has to do what is in best interest. You just hope that he appreciates what he has now as a Hawkeye because there are worse things than being the star player for a Big Ten team.
Cook has it pretty good at Iowa.
The offense is built around him and the fans absolutely adore him. They also appreciate that a former four-star recruit from a different state who had numerous choices for college, including Kansas, would choose to be a Hawkeye.
But it also hurts to lose and Iowa did more of that than what was expected this season.
Cook also sees how his close friend and former high school teammate, Jayson Tatum, has benefitted from playing in the NBA.
Tatum became a multi-millionaire barely one year out of high school after being selected third overall in the 2017 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He only played one season for Duke before pursuing his dream of NBA riches.
Tatum’s situation was different, however, because he was considered a lock to be a lottery pick and there was no risk in coming out.
There is a risk with Cook coming out, but he has taken steps to guard against that risk by not hiring an agent.
If the NBA tells Cook he isn’t ready, he could always play professionally overseas and start earning some decent money.
Or he could transfer to a different school, but that would require sitting out next season unless the rules about transferring change sooner than expected.
Cook is an enormous talent, but his game also needs a lot of work, especially on defense. His jump shot is unreliable at this stage and he struggles with turnovers.
His decision ultimately could come down to whether Cook wants to stay in school and help Iowa get back on the winning track or start being paid for what he loves to do.
There currently are no former Iowa players in the NBA, showing just how hard it is to make that leap.
But you still can’t blame Cook for trying.