Buckeyes Hope To "Cook" A Big Fish

Five-star shooting guard Daequan Cook of Dayton Dunbar was one of several players whose view of Ohio State changed after the firing of Jim O'Brien, but now that Thad Matta is in place, have the Buckeyes gotten back on Cook's list? Kyle Lamb caught up with Dunbar assistant coach Al Powell to find out the latest.

Coaches will do anything and say anything to gain an edge. If they think it will give them advantage, they'll say it regardless of being a phone call, a letter, or a hand-written note.

Al Powell has probably seen and heard everything there is to hear in a very short time. Sure, he's probably got a preference or too, and maybe he's even impressionable enough to buy into some of those lines.

But, no matter how hard it might be for a coach to convince a recruit otherwise, there will always be those who just simply have the extra appeal.

Monday evening, Bucknuts spoke with Powell, the assistant basketball coach at Dayton Dunbar High School to check up on the recruitment of highly touted junior wing Daequan Cook.

Powell has been handling the recruiting for Cook, the 6-5 star who soared up the charts with a dominating summer. Cook, ranked as the top shooting guard in the country by The Insiders Hoops and fourth nationally overall, is playing things with an open mind.

That didn't stop Powell from giving every indication there were a few teams that stood out, however.

"I think that Ohio State is definitely a favorite once again with Daequan now that Coach Matta is there," Powell said. "I would say Ohio State, Michigan, and North Carolina are the favorites based on what I talk to Daequan about and based on my dealings with these teams. Texas too, they are making a big push lately."

Ohio State was in extremely good shape with Cook during the spring, but things soured in a hurry.

After Jim O'Brien was dismissed for improper benefits to a recruit, Cook saw all of the allegations and began to second guess what would become of the Buckeye basketball program.

In absence of a coach, Ohio State quickly faded into obscurity for an ever so brief amount of time.

But according to Powell, nearly as quickly as the Buckeyes disappeared off of Cook's list, Thad Matta was hired as the next head basketball coach, and OSU has now re-emerged as a favorite.

"There was definitely a period of time where he was concerned about possible sanctions and probation," Powell said. "But Coach Matta's hiring quickly seemed to alleviate his concerns."

Although Cook was extremely fond of Coach O'Brien, as well as Lamonta Stone, who was in charge of recruiting Daequan, it's apparent that he is also very fond of Matta.

Powell indicated they are both very high on Matta.

"We all really love Matta a lot," Powell said. "He's really excited about it (Matta being the coach). I think Ohio State is in as good a position now as before Coach O'Brien was fired."

That's also not to say Cook's concerns are completely erased.

"I think Daequan just wants to sit back and be patient with the process," Powell elaborated. "I think he wants to see what happens with Ohio State, but just wants to make sure he won't have to spend most of his career on probation if he ends up going there."

The Ohio State coaching staff has apparently done a lot of work to indicate to Powell, and consequently, Cook, what sort of sanctions, if any, Ohio State might face from the alleged incidents.

Powell believes from their conversations, the punishment could be minimal.

"The staff is telling us that they don't believe anything will be severe," he said. "If they did go on any sort of probation, they expected to be completely off probation by the time Daequan was a freshman in two years."

Despite the fact Cook has been high on Ohio State for a while, and the fact he's been to numerous Ohio State games, one other factor working against the Buckeyes and the Wolverines is that Cook grew up a Tar Heel fan.

"I have to remind myself to keep my personal emotions out of this process," Powell said. "We all have teams we grew up rooting for and we have personal favorites. Daequan did grow up liking North Carolina a lot."

Powell stopped short of saying they were a leader, however.

"He has also been up to Ohio State a lot to see them play, he loves the ‘Schott', and he likes Ohio State a lot," Powell said. "He's really keeping an open mind about this. Coach Matta has Ohio State right back in the thick of the process, and they are going to be there at the end."

If landing Cook isn't a big enough prize, whoever does sign him might also then hold the inside track to his teammate, Aaron Pogue.

Pogue, a 6-8 sophomore, is nearly a clone of Sean May in size, appearance, as well as playing style, and is considered a top 100 national recruit in his class. Some have him as high as a top 25 caliber player.

For right now, Ohio State, Michigan, and North Carolina appear to be engaged in a dog fight, but no one is going to be safe. Especially when you consider the Cincinnatis, Dukes, and Arizonas of the world continue to beat down the door to get in.

Powell will continue to hear just about anything for about 18 more months. No one is going to have an advantage, unless of course, they decide to play favorites.

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