Quinn Cook understands he has only a game or two left for his current team, then another week with another team, again with no assurances of a basketball future beyond the NBA Summer League.
For all the uncertainty, the former Duke guard is enjoying the challenge of becoming a pro basketball player.
“It’s been great. It’s been fun. I’ve been learning a lot,” Cook said after he came off the bench for eight points and a team-best four assists for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando on Tuesday. “KD (Kevin Durant) has been in the gym all week, and I’m just learning from these guys. That’s the biggest thing I’m taking from this.”
Cook, 22, may not even be invited to preseason camp with the Thunder, and after play wraps up in Orlando on Friday – if not sooner – he’ll fly to Las Vegas, where he’ll get another look with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ team in the larger NBA Summer League there.
That’s not to say he hasn’t made an impression on Oklahoma City, where new coach Billy Donovan watched from behind the bench at Amway Center.
“He’s a winner,” said Donovan, the longtime Florida coach. “Playing at Duke, what they did this year, was great. His unselfishness to be willing to play alongside Tyus Jones says a lot about his character. He’s an above-average shooter with a really, really good basketball IQ, really good competitor. The things he can’t control are his dimensions, his size, but he’s overcome a lot to be a heck of a player. If there’s a guy that can overcome that to play at this level, I think it’s him.”
Cook played point guard at Duke for three years, then moved to shooting guard and played alongside the freshman Jones in helping the Blue Devils win their fifth national title in April. That versatility helps him, but after being listed at 6-foot-2 at Duke, he measured just over 6 feet at combine workouts. That means he likely is only seen as a point guard in the NBA, something he has no problem hearing.
“A lot of people don’t think I can play point guard because I didn’t play it my last year, but I’ve been playing it my whole life,” Cook said. “I’m just trying to create for everybody. Really, I’m just trying to lead.”
The Thunder drafted a point guard in the first round to back up star Russell Westbrook, and in Orlando, Cook has played behind Semaj Christon, who hasn’t played in the NBA but played 44 games last year for Oklahoma City’s affiliate in the NBA Developmental League. That, too, might be part of Cook’s path to sticking on an NBA roster.
Next week in Las Vegas will give him another opportunity to impress with Cleveland, where he’s close to point guard Kyrie Irving, whom he followed in Duke’s backcourt four years ago. Making an NBA roster as an undrafted rookie won’t be easy, but that won’t let Cook stop trying.
“Nobody ever gave me a chance growing up,” he said. “I was always counted out. Nobody thought I would do well in high school, nobody thought I would do well in college, and a lot of people don’t think I’m going to do well in the NBA. It’s been the story of my life. I still have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve dreamed of playing in the NBA, and it’s right here.”