When L.C. Cooks steps on the basketball court, he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
The 6-foot-1 Central Cabarrus junior point guard has been doing it at a high level since he stepped on campus.
"The best thing about L.C. is that he is not just a scorer," said Central Cabarrus basketball coach Brian King. "He is a complete player, who can hit the outside shot, take it the rim and set up his teammates and make plays almost at will."
After spending his freshman year at Queens Grant in Mint Hill, Cooks came back home to Concord, where he had been a much celebrated middle school star at C.C. Griffin with current teammate Aaron Johnson.
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Cooks hasn't disappointed at Central. He averaged 19 points in his sophomore season, helping the Vikings become one of the most improved teams in the state, going from four wins in 2008-09 to 18 wins last year.
"Scoring just comes naturally to me," said Cooks, who is already challenging some of the Viking scoring records in only his second season. "I like to get my teammates involved early on in a game, but I like to have the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter. I want the pressure of making plays, whether it's scoring or passing, to win the game."
Cooks has been even better this season, as he is already one of the top scorers in the entire area at 24 points per game, while dishing out five assists and grabbing five rebounds per contest this season.
Cooks has been at his best in the last two weeks. He scored career-highs in scoring twice in one week, netting 35 points in a win over Cox Mill on Jan. 24 and then tying a school record with 41 points the next night over A.L. Brown.
"I felt really good the last week or so, shooting the ball," said Cooks. "But I really don't worry about scoring, I just want to win right now. Winning is the most important thing, and we have to play every game like it's a championship game from here on out."
After an unexpected 1-4 start in South Piedmont Conference play this year, the Vikings (11-6, 5-4) have had to fight back, winning four of their next five, including big wins over Brown and Hickory Ridge in the last two weeks to get back in the thick of the conference race. Central Cabarrus was in fourth-place behind Concord, Northwest Cabarrus and A.L. Brown heading into this week.
Cooks and the Vikings, who advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year, have even bigger plans this season, but first they have to make it to the postseason.
"We want to win a conference championship or (SPC) tournament championship this season, and we believe we still can," said Cooks. "After that, we want to make it as far into the playoffs as we can."
To do that, Cooks will have to be at his best for the next month or so, which he has already started to do.
While Cooks is busy leading his team, he has also impressed coaches and college scouts. Schools like Alabama, Charlotte, Furman, Oregon State, Richmond and Western Carolina have shown interest in the point guard.
While Cooks wants to play college basketball, for now, he is focused on taking Central Cabarrus back to the top, where they were when Ishmael Smith and former coach Scott Brewer, who's not at Concord, led the program to the 2000 state championship.
"We just try to keep getting better all of the time, there is always something we can improve on," said Cooks about this year's Viking team. "We are trying to get back the championship tradition at Central. We want to build this thing up back to where it was and let the guys after us just keep it going."