Cook Contemplates His Future

Mike Cook will participate in Pitt's Senior Day ceremony prior to its regular-season finale against DePaul Sunday at noon at the Petersen Events Center, but there's a chance it won't be the fifth-year senior's last appearance.

Mike Cook, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Pittsburgh game against Duke Dec. 20 at Madison Square Garden, is expected to apply for a sixth year of eligibility when this season comes to an end.

"That'll be up to Mike, but it will definitely be an appeal,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "He would have to ask for an exception to the rule, because it's a sixth year, so there's nothing we can do about it now. (But) I know of people who have gotten sixth years. We don't know of many, but they're all different circumstances. And if Mike wants to do it, we'll support him.''

Until his status is determined, Cook is going through with rehabilitating the knee. He walks without a limp and has started doing some weight training, mostly leg presses, and expects to be able to job sometime next month in case he is granted an extra season to play for the Panthers.

"It's all about the NCAA,'' Cook said, "(but) it's really out of my hands. We put the paperwork in, at least I think we did. And if it happens, it happens, but if it doesn't I'll have to go to Plan B and try to play basketball somewhere else next year. And if it happens, Pitt is definitely a place that I'd like to come back to.

"But you never know how my knee is going to turn out. So, I'm just going to wait to see what happens, but I'm working right now on getting my knee stronger. (Plan B) is whatever's out there for me. Nobody wants a player with a messed-up knee, so I have to get it to 100 percent. That way I can get out there without any problems on the court. So, that's what I'm trying to do.''

Cook is a communications major, and someday he'll likely be a media professional. But no one interviewing Cook needs to be concerned about him taking their job just yet

"Right now I'm just concentrating on basketball and getting my knee back to 100 percent,'' Cook said. "I'll definitely be playing next year, but I have to get to where I feel comfortable with getting out there and playing.

"So, I don't want to rush anything. My rehab is going real well, but the most important thing is not to rush anything and get too excited about things. I just have to take it slow, so I'm just taking it day-by-day.''

Cook didn't want to analyze Pitt's season without him in the lineup, preferring to say that "we're just not getting it done. But the guys are working hard and are really trying hard. It's just not gone the way that we hoped it would go.''

Still, Cook tries to do his part by helping out freshmen Gilbert Brown and Bradley Wanamaker, who have spent time at the seniors small forward spot.

"Gil calls me sometimes to ask me about some things,'' Cook said. "The three spot, to me, is the most important one on the team. You don't get a lot of shots or a lot of plays called for you, but you have an important role.

"You have to create sometimes and are depended on for rebounds from the perimeter, so Gil was having a tough time with the transition when he got into the lineup. The same thing with Brad when he played the three. So, they can call me or text me anytime they want to talk about anything.''

Cook will travel to the Big East Tournament with the Panthers, as well as their NCAA trip, but before that he'll say good-bye for now to the Pitt fans Sunday.

"It'll mean a lot to me and even more to my family,'' Cook said. "They've been real supportive of me, and it's a real special night for them. So, I'm looking forward to hearing the crowd and seeing my family's reactions.

"It's been real hard for me to watch the team, and it's been real painful with the way things have been going lately. But I think we'll turn things around and play well in this last game going into the tournament.''

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