Dayton Dunbar is just two wins away from enjoying a trip to the Division II state tournament in Value City Arena, in Columbus. Sunday afternoon provided Daequan Cook not only a glimpse of what he hopes to accomplish in a little over a week, but also gave him the chance to see one of his favorite schools in action.
When Cook returns to the Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University the next time around, he's hoping it's to play in the state final four in Division II a little over a week and a half from now.
Cook was in attendance on Sunday watching Ohio State's upset victory of the top-ranked Illinois. The visit went well for Cook, who hopes to be winning a big game or two of his own next week.
"I definitely want to get back up to Ohio State and play in there, because I've never got to play there yet," Cook said. "It would be really nice to get to play in that arena."
To get there, Cook's team, Dunbar, needs to win this next game in the regional semifinals against Dayton Chaminade-Julienne. Last year, Dunbar was knocked off in the regional semis against the same Chaminade-Julienne team in overtime, 52-46.
Cook is thrilled to be here, but doesn't forget what happened last season.
"I'm very excited," Cook said. "But you know, I was excited last year too, and we got beat in the regional semifinals to this same team. So, in the back of our minds, we have to remember that and come out and play better."
On the season, Cook is averaging 21.5 points a game and 11.6 rebounds per game. He's shooting 54 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range.
He's hoping that last year will not repeat itself, especially since last year's group was made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, and this year, they are mostly sophomores and especially juniors. Having Aaron Pogue back -- the 6-8 forward who missed most of last season because of a toe injury and because of grades -- will help as well.
"Oh yes, no question. It makes the game much easier when you are older and more mature," Cook acknowledged. "You think a lot better, and right now we're thinking real good. We want to keep working hard and keep playing good, and good things will happen."
On Sunday, Cook was able to get away from the pressures of trying to make the state tournament, long enough to take a trip up to Columbus for the season finale between Ohio State and Illinois.
He's been to plenty of Ohio State games in the past, but this one was especially nice for him to take in a major upset of the top-ranked team in the country.
"That was real big," Cook said of Ohio State's win. "I really enjoy watching them (Ohio State) play, and it seemed like they got a big second wind for that game. It was a real nice game."
Cook talked about his impressions of the trip to the game, which included sitting right behind the bench, going out on the court with the fans after the game, and then going back into the locker room before heading home for an evening practice.
"It was a good environment," Cook said of the atmosphere. "I felt like I was right at home, actually. I can picture myself up there going through games just like that. I had a lot of fun watching Ohio State win a big game like that."
Being a kid who has seen a lot of basketball games for Ohio State, there wasn't too much Cook needed to know about the Buckeyes. Even so, he said he was still really happy to get to see them in person once again.
He talked about whether or not he was able to take away anything new about them, and if not, what his impressions were of the team.
"I like how they never gave up and kept working hard, and kept fighting," he added. "I love that attitude. It shows the type of mentality they have. It's a very good sign of how they never give up and that's a reflection of the coach."
Cook is still focused on winning a state championship, so recruiting has taken somewhat of a backseat for the time being.
However, he and his family also might be soon looking to narrow things down even more than they already have. But as far as talking about the teams involved, Cook declined.
"Well, I am keeping my options as far as college goes, but AAU is going to be the same," he said of his intentions to play for the Spiece Indy Heat with his friends Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and teammate Pogue. "There haven't been any changes in my surroundings. I really don't have a list of schools now. There are a lot of teams out there, but I'm not worried about that."
Cook did acknowledge, however, that Ohio State is very much on his mind as a team he's interested in. But didn't want to give any sort of list beyond that.
Right now, the tentative plan is still to finish the season and start talking about a decision -- which is expected to be made by summer, if not sooner.
In the meantime, he's hoping to experience just a little more of the big-game atmosphere in Columbus. In a couple of weeks, he hopes to be partying at center court at VCA -- just like he saw the Buckeyes do on Sunday.