Cook Enjoys Chance To Play At The Schott

Dayton Dunbar junior standout Daequan Cook tallied 26 points, but it was not enough. Upper Sandusky rode hot three-point shooting to an entertaining 95-90 win in a Division II state semifinal game. Afterwards, Cook discussed playing in Value City Arena as well as his future.

After attending Ohio State's stunning upset of No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Illinois 11 days ago, Dayton Dunbar junior guard Daequan Cook was yearning to get his chance to play on the floor at Value City Arena.

"That made me want to play there a lot," Cook said.

The 6-5 Cook got his wish Thursday afternoon as he led Dunbar into battle against Upper Sandusky in a Division II state semifinal game at VCA. Cook ended up scoring 26 points, but Dunbar dropped a 95-90 decision to the high scoring Rams.

"It felt good," Cook said. "We felt the momentum was going to be on our side. But they came out and played just as hard as we did and they matched our intensity. On both ends of the court, there was good basketball."

Cook is rated as the nation's No. 6 junior by ScoutHoops.com. During the season, he averaged 22.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and five assists. The loss left the Wolverines at 22-5 for the year – and also left Cook and his teammates yearning for more.

"There is no question that we are going to be here next year," he said. "We have the same players and we will be more mature. We'll learn from our downfalls."

Cook was 10 of 23 from the floor, including 2 of 10 on three-point attempts. He was also 4 of 6 at the foul line, missing a pair in the final minute that could have helped Dunbar make a late run.

"I'm not supposed to miss free throws," said Cook, who played 31 minutes in an up-and-down 32-minute game. "I was just down on myself a little bit."

In recent weeks, Cook has been hampered by a hip injury. But he would not blame that for his performance. Besides, he had 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals.

"It didn't really affect my play," he said. "I've been exercising it quite a bit. The pain started going away. But if I would get hit on it, it would hurt. But that's about it. I hurt it in a game. I was going up for a dunk and got fouled."

Dunbar coach Peter Pullen said the real Cook was not on display.

"He shoots the ball a lot better than he did tonight," Pullen said. "Because this game really wasn't a halfcourt game, we were able to get him inside and get him some easy buckets. Because of the trapping, we saw a lot of opportunities to score. But we didn't handle it as well as maybe we could have. I think early, he settled for jump shots instead of taking it inside.

"He showed some of what he can do, but that's not all that he can do."

In terms of areas Cook can improve, Pullen said, "Sometimes he just tries too hard. His ballhandling could be a little bit better. His shooting can get better. He has nights where he has to fight through it like this. But he constantly works to get better. He's going to be all right.

"The better the players on the floor with him the better he is."

Cook was asked about being a marked man for opponents: "I'm the type of person that I don't pay attention to all those rankings and things. I just work hard."

When the discussion turned to his college choices, Cook said, "Right now, my options are open. I'm still awaiting some visits. I have not gotten down to my top 10 schools just yet."

When asked when he plans to make his decision, he said, "I'm going to decide this summer, probably before I start my senior year."

Regarding Ohio State, head coach Thad Matta and his assistants were in the building and able to watch Cook.

"They said they were going to be here," Cook said.

When asked what he likes about Ohio State, Cook replied, "The atmosphere. It's close to home. My friends would be able to come and see me play. And I like the coaches. They get up and down. This is the type of basketball I would like to play."

And in terms of Matta?

"He's a great coach," Cook said. "I liked him when he was at Xavier. That's when I first got to know him."

Pullen was a bit more forthcoming with some of Cook's favorites.

"My thoughts of who I think he's looking at would definitely be Ohio State, North Carolina, Michigan, Cincinnati, Wake Forest and Michigan State," Pullen said.

Pullen was asked where Cook would project at the college level.

"I think he could be a two or three," he said. "It doesn't matter with him. I think he'd be a real good three, personally, because he rebounds well."

Pullen was also asked if he was concerned about losing Cook to a prep school.

"No, I think he bleeds blue," Pullen said, referring to Dunbar's colors. "But we hear all kinds of things about what he's supposedly doing."

Cook said he would relax before starting the spring and summer AAU and camp season. He will again play for the Spiece Indy Heat with fellow top national juniors Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. as well as his Dunbar teammate, sophomore center Aaron Pogue.

"The AAU team I play with, we start next month at Arkansas-Little Rock," he said. "I'm just going to relax and take some time off."

Cook confirmed he plans to attend the ABCD camp in July as well as the NBA Players Association camp.

Also Notable

* Pogue, listed at 6-8, played 19 minutes and had 11 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out. He nearly brought the east end basket down when he hung on the rim on a dunk.

"Because he has a big body and people bounce off him, he's going to get those kind of Mickey Mouse fouls," Pullen said. "He's such a competitor. He leads our team in charges. He works hard to get that position."

* Another Dunbar sophomore, 6-6 Mark Anderson, was also impressive. He had nine points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots for Dunbar.

"Mark just might have had trouble with the transition and getting up and down the floor," Pullen said.

* Junior guard Antoine Sain added 22 points and five steals for Dunbar.

* Upper Sandusky continued its winning ways by improving to 26-0. Sophomore Jon Diebler, already committed to Valparaiso, had 29 points on 7-of-13 shooting from behind the three-point arc. His brother, senior Jacob Diebler, already signed with Valpo, nearly had a triple double with 15 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

Jacob Diebler shared AP Division II state player of the year honors with Cook, who said he was deserving.

"He's a terrific player," Cook said. "I have a lot of respect for him. I feel they did the right thing by sharing that award. He showed today he deserved it as much as I did."

Greg Micheli had 26 points and nine rebounds as well for Upper Sandusky, which hit 55.2 percent of its three-point shots (16 of 29).

"In practice, we worked on focusing on the two Diebler brothers and Micheli," Cook said. "We were going to try and make the other two guys beat us. With a team like that, we would play help defense. They started making tough shots and there wasn't anything we could do about that."

* The combined total of 185 points was seven points off the state tournament record of 192 set by Lorain Catholic and Brookfield in 1976. It ranks second all-time in the state tournament.

Upper Sandusky's 16 treys and Dunbar's 37-point fourth quarter were also records for a Division II semifinal game. The Rams will meet Wooster Triway, a 71-70 winner over Columbus Linden McKinley, in Saturday's state title game.

* All four of Saturday's state finals will be televised live by Ohio News Network.


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