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Levi Cook has always been the biggest guy in his classroom as well as on the fields and courts where he played sports in Southern West Virginia. But it took some travel and competition outside his home region for him to realize just how good he could be.

Growing up in tiny Arnett, W. Va., Cook always towered over his classmates. His physical size led him to sports, but it wasn't until he ventured onto the national stage that he realized his skills could lead him to something bigger. Cook's height and weight naturally made football a draw, but by the time he got to his ninth grade year he realized that basketball was his favorite sport.

Making that choice was one thing, but figuring out just how good he could be was something else. Cook burst onto the West Virginia high school stage during his freshman year, averaging a double-double and drawing early attention from some college observers. That was followed by a summer of AAU competition that really turned the lights on for him.

"The AAU competition was really good for me," he told BlueGoldNews.com after committing to West Virginia. "I played some great players like the Harrison twins and Daniel Giddens. I did pretty well, and it was a great feeling. It let me know I have the chance to be good and play on that level."

Thus fortified, Cook kept working prior to his upcoming sophomore season, but as a special day approached he began thinking about making his commitment to college. His grandfather, Stanley Cook, was born on Sept. 12, and was a huge influence in Levi's life. Stanley passed away in 2007, but remains a linchpin in Levi's life, and he decided to honor the man he calls "Pawpaw" by making his college choice on that date.

"My grandfather was a Mountaineer fan forever, and he passed that on to me," Cook said. "I grew up watching Kevin Pittsnogle and Tyrone Sally and Mike Gansey and all those guys, and Pawpaw and I were always watching games. I had an idea that I would end up doing it on his birthday. It was just my way of honoring him."

Such a story will no doubt endear Cook to Mountaineer fans, who hold family dear above all else. He's a West Virginian through and through, from his slight country drawl to his loyalty to his home. He does realize, though, that the early commitment will paint a target on him for the rest of his high school career.

"I know the people we play will want to beat us, because that will look good for them. I know I'll have that on my back," he admitted. "But it's about the team, and we'll be ready for that. I'll be concentrating on Liberty High School and getting us to Charleston [for the state tournament]."

Cook mentioned "the road to Charleston" more than once during discussions of his commitment, so it's clear he's focusing on his high school team and teammates after making a commitment that had his future coaches "very happy".

"I think they were as happy as I was," he said of WVU's coaches when he told them of his commitment. "And I know I was really excited."

Cook also commented on some rumors that he might transfer to a bigger school in order to play different, and presumably better, competition.

"I'm staying at Liberty," he said. "I want to help us get back to Charleston. I will be here for four years."

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