CLEVELAND, Ohio – This is a homecoming of sorts for roster hopeful Quinn Cook of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He was raised in Washington D.C., but his roots are planted firmly in the soil of Cleveland. There’s a deep connection that links the point guard to this hard-working town.
The Cavaliers have one roster spot available and six camp invitees are fighting for it. After the team’s annual Wine and Gold Scrimmage on Monday, plenty of fans would leave The Q talking about the undrafted guard out of Duke. The former McDonald’s All-American and member of the 2015 national championship team left the biggest impression.
During the scrimmage, he picked the pocket of Matthew Dellavedova for a layup; pushed the ball to get into early sets; drained contested pull-up 3-pointers; and created his shot and opportunities for others at will.
The 22-year-old rookie had a scrimmage-high 14 points to go with three rebounds and four assists.
It’s an uphill battle to make the team, but he’s more than up for the challenge.
“I’ve been fighting my whole life,” Cook said. “Fighting to get in a position to be in high school. Fighting to get playing time at Duke and fighting now for a roster spot. I’m used to fighting, and I’m just happy to be at this point, happy that the Cavaliers are giving me this opportunity.”
Now that you have a sense for his perseverance and competitive spirit, you’ll soon understand why his training camp invitation might be destiny.
A return ‘home’
Ted Cook, Quinn Cook’s father, was a star basketball player at Glenville High School in the late 1970s, playing against local legend Clark Kellogg. Most of Ted’s family members live in the Cleveland and Canton area.
Ted Cook attended Howard University in D.C. and met his future wife, Janet, on campus. They made D.C. their home with two children, Quinn and his older sister Kelsey.
Ted was a no-nonsense disciplinarian who believed in hard work and education. He took his responsibilities as a father seriously. His strict nature was his way of not only demonstrating love, but also keeping his son away from the gang violence in the streets.
Quinn Cook admits that he had a fiery temper as an teen. He was typically the shortest kid among his peers and used his cranky disposition as a defense mechanism. Ted, on the other hand, viewed his son’s demeanor as something that could possibly lead to his destruction.
Quinn would find out how serious his pop’s concerns were. When he was 11, his dad informed him that he had purchased a pair of tickets to attend the 2004 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
Ted was a die-hard hometown Cavaliers fan, but also rooted for the Los Angeles Lakers. In college, he pledged Omega Psi Phi Que Dogs, which dons the same colors as the Lakers.
It would be one memorable weekend.
“Ah man. I still remember,” Quinn recalls. “LeBron and D-Wade were there. Man, I was excited.”
A few weeks before the event, Quinn was ejected from a game for being argumentative, which led to a loss for his team. He worried not only that he might be kicked off the roster, but also that dad had something in store once they arrived home.
It went as anticipated.
“He spanked me,” Quinn said with a laugh. “I knew it was going to happen. I knew better.”
And as for that Southern California trip in mid-February, the tickets didn’t go to waste.
“I went with Kelsey instead,” Janet Cook said with a laugh. “That was Ted. He didn’t play. We had fun in Los Angeles and I actually got to meet Kobe [Bryant] that weekend. Quinn was mad. Ted was mad. He wanted to go too. They were looking forward to that trip, but that was the consequence.”
“Man, I learned from that,” Quinn said.
Quinn and his dad remained the best of friends, doing everything together. Ted’s love for basketball is firmly in his son’s DNA.
“My dad and playing outside on the blacktop with your friends in D.C., where every corner had a basketball court,” Quinn said. “It was a tradition where I’m from. I fell in love with it. My dad was a big reason why.”
Ted took Quinn to watch LeBron James play in high school. Quinn Cook was 10 at the time and couldn’t envision being a teammate.
At 14, Quinn was one of the best players in his class, with potential off the charts.
A life-changing event
Unfortunately, life can get in the way. At age 48, Ted suffered a heart attack that eventually took his life.
“It was so tough,” Quinn said. “It was tough, man. He (was) in a coma for about two weeks. He died on March 3. On March 1st, my aunt texted my sister and said he had (been) moved (in the hospital), so we were thinking that everything was about to be normal. Two days later he passed. It was shocking.”
His right-hand man, mentor, trainer and father was gone. But the values instilled remain.
“It was a life-changing event that happened for me,” Quinn said. “He taught me a lot in 14 years, and I don’t take that for granted because a lot of people don’t have their fathers from the first day. I got mine for 14 years. He helped me become who I am today.”
“Quinn immediately took the role of being the man of the house,” his mother said. “He has two diva women to deal with. Lord knows we drive him crazy. He definitely bosses us around.
“But those are the same characteristics and traits of his father. It broke our heart when he passed, but Quinn stepped in and stepped up.”
Cook’s poise and cool demeanor witnessed by 14,000-plus at The Q on Monday originated from Ted. But it’s just one step on a long road with obstacles surfacing each day.
Nevertheless, what he has already endured has prepared him for what’s to come. He’s battle-tested.
“When I lost my dad, I could have made another choice and stopped going to school, using that as an excuse,” he said. “I went through my time where I struggled growing up and being the only man where my mom couldn’t really control me. I was skipping school and getting in trouble.
“Then my friends started getting caught up in the streets and that woke me up. I lost a couple of friends due to senseless violence. I was lucky to have made a choice, and having people around me not letting me fall into that nonsense. I just try to stay motivated so I don’t let down the people that got me here. (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski), I don’t want to let him down after he vouched for me. I don’t want to let my whole family down.”
Janet Cook says everything happens for a reason. She said Quinn is a champion mentally and physically. The family would love nothing more than to see him in a Cavaliers uniform come Oct. 27. Q playing in The Q and his father pledging the Que fraternity can’t be merely a coincidence. The family believes a higher power is working on his behalf.
Quinn believes his dad is watching over him, proud of his accomplishments. He wants to make this 15-man roster, but accepts the decision is in somebody else’s hands. In the meantime, he’s going to bust his butt and enjoy every minute.
That’s exactly what his dad would want.
“This is a blessing in disguise for the Cavs to give me this opportunity,” Quinn said. “It being in our hometown where my dad grew up is special. He grew up a big Cavs fan. So for the Cavs to be the first team to give me an opportunity, it’s just God working in mysterious ways, I feel like.”