Tyler Cook was better than a lot of people are giving him credit for as he leaves Iowa

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Tyler Cook dunks against Iowa State this past season. Photo by Jeff Yoder

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Tyler Cook started all but one game in which he appeared over three seasons as a member of the Iowa men’s basketball team and he made second-team All-Big Ten as a junior and honorable mention as a sophomore.

He also made the Big Ten All-Freshmen team, led Iowa in scoring and rebounding in each of the past two seasons and is one of nine players in program history to total more than 1,300 points and 600 rebounds.

And he accomplished all of that in just three seasons.

But despite all of that productivity, there is a growing belief that Cook declaring for the NBA Draft will be a case of addition by subtraction for Iowa.

I’ll believe that when I see it.

Cook certainly had his flaws as a 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward, most notably the lack of a consistent jump shot, and limited ball-handling skills.

But he was physically imposing and he delivered more times than not by scoring in double figures in 69 games at Iowa.

The desire to see the glass half full is certainly the right of every fan, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of being fair and reasonable to Cook.

Multiple fans have told me since Cook announced that he was leaving Iowa that his departure won't be that big of a deal because he supposedly didn't fit into Iowa's system, whatever that means.

But you can’t just dismiss the loss of your leading scorer and rebounder, and assume that his replacements will be better.

Junior Luka Garza is a quality Big Ten center who is capable of scoring 20 points on any given night for Iowa.

Forwards Ryan Kriener, Cordell Pemsl and Jack Nunge also have shown flashes, so there are enough options to fill Cook’s void at power forward.

None of the returning forwards are as athletic or as dynamic as Cook, but all three of them are better medium-range shooters, and that should help Iowa space the floor on offense.

It was no secret that Cook struggled to shoot and that caused defenses to sag off him and clog the lane.

So, yes, Cook was far from perfect, but Iowa coach Fran McCaffery still often relied on Cook to make critical baskets at pivotal times.

Iowa’s 25-point comeback against Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was sparked by Cook as he scored his team’s first nine points in the second half. Iowa would go on to lose 83-77, but there probably wouldn’t have been a comeback without Cook leading the way.

It is easy to dismiss what Cook accomplished as a Hawkeye since he isn’t on the team anymore, and since Iowa failed to make the NCAA Tournament in two of his three seasons.

But there were many times when Cook performed at a star level and electrified the fans with his rim-rattling dunks.

Iowa will have different look next season with Cook and guards Isaiah Moss and Maishe Dailey all having left the program this spring. Moss announced on Thursday that he plans to transfer to another school and will play next season as a graduate student, while Dailey announced a few weeks ago that he will transfer to Akron to play his senior season.

Both players will be missed, but not to the extent of Cook, who came to Iowa from St. Louis as a four-star recruit.

Cook represented Iowa with class and dignity, and he had the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.

Nobody ever said a bad word about him unless they were talking about his jump shot.

Cook now faces a monumental challenge of trying to make an NBA roster. He projects as a late second-round pick at best right now, but all it takes is one team and one opportunity to seize the moment.

Tyler Cook is gone from Iowa, but he shouldn’t be forgotten or minimized.

He was one of the best players during the Fran McCaffery era and it’s always a big deal when a team loses its leading scorer and rebounder.

It isn't a recipe for disaster, but to assume that Iowa will be better without Cook is being very presumptuous.