Brian Cook became a great player at Illinois. He not only led his team to consecutive Big 10 Championships, he became a high NBA draft choice. Speaking right after the recent Alumni Game, he expressed pleasure seeing his former teammates and sharing memories.
"It's always great to come back to where it all started at the University of Illinois. See your teammates, see the guys that helped you get to where you're at."
Cook especially enjoyed the reunion of the 2001 and 2002 Big 10 Championship teams.
"I haven't been to all the festivities, but the dinner Friday night was great. The guys all back in a room talking basketball, talking about old stories. It was just great."
Cook used the reunion as an opportunity to return to his mother's home in Lincoln. The lifestyle there is a major contrast from his present residence.
"I've been at my mom's house. We've just been enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of the countryside. We'll be here for about another week and then go back to L.A."
Cook hopes to squeeze his 6'-10" frame into another year in the NBA sun before retiring.
"I've got another year with the Clippers, but we have a lockout going on right now. I may go overseas and play, or I may stay here. I'm kind of torn between the two right now."
Some wondered whether the ultra slender fellow they saw playing as a youngster in Lincoln would become a college star, let alone an NBA player of long duration. But Cook had no doubt he would make it.
"I always wanted to be an NBA basketball player, from day 1. My father put that in me. He played for the Celtics. I always wanted to be a great NBA basketball player. I've just stuck to my fundamentals, and I've been blessed to spend 9 years in the NBA. It's been great."
Cook enjoyed the camaraderie of playing not only with former teammates but members of other Illini teams. The togetherness shown reminded of what made past teams great. Cook wants to see the legacy he and his teammates established return to present Illini teams.
"That's what we try to accomplish here at Illinois. When we got here with Lon (Kruger), me, Sean (Harrington) and Jerrance (Howard) came in with Cory (Bradford), Sergio (McClain) and the Peoria guys, Lucas (Johnson), Arch (Robert Archibald) and all those guys. Those guys showed us how to play, from the seniors down.
"That's the way I think it needs to happen here going forward. I know when me and Sean and Jerrance were seniors, we showed Dee (Brown), Deron (Williams), Roger (Powell), Luther (Head) and all those guys how to play. We just expected all our players to play hard. There was no other exceptions.
"The seniors of an organization need to take ownership and teach the younger guys. That's how we've been. It's been a family, as you can see. The atmosphere is always great when we're around each other. All the guys have a lot of charisma. It's good."