New Perth Wildcats import Derek Cooke Jr’s basketball journey is very different to most young American pros chasing roster positions around the world.
The 25-year-old did not play basketball at high school. Instead, he was a promising wide-receiver on the football team.
He didn’t go straight to college after high school, instead found retail employment to help out his family.
While doing so, he grew approximately six inches.
Cooke was then spotted playing pick-up basketball with his brother and accepted a community college scholarship to help further his education, which led to him joining the Wyoming Cowboys basketball program.
“It all has panned out perfectly, I couldn’t ask for better opportunities, I’ve been given every opportunity thanks to the great people around me,” he said.
“It just took me dedicating myself to the game of basketball. Each phase has just been another step to me reaching my ultimate goal, what I’m trying to achieve, and we’re I’m at now.”
Cooke believes that the delayed start has given him an enhanced drive and work ethic. And surprisingly, coaches have taken the lack of high school experience as a positive as well.
“My head coach at Wyoming said it allows me to be a piece of clay that any coach can mould to being the player they need,” he said.
“So many players at a young age get misled or told the wrong thing, which messes up the foundation. My foundation started up with college coaches.”
After a working out with NBA teams including Denver and Phoenix – and even signing a short pre-season contract with the Suns – Cooke believe he belongs in basketball’s most elite competition, eventually.
He is looking forward to showing that through his energy and desire to win this season.
“I’m a very high energy player, even on a bad day I still bring the energy,” he promised Wildcats fans.
“I like to run, I like to jump, I like to dunk. I like to get the fans going. I want it to be a great experience for them and for me to feed of 12 thousand people going crazy will be exceptional.
“They’ll see a guy with my size moving like a guard, a guy with a smile on his face with everything he does. It’ll be a great experience for me and for them.”
Derek Cooke Jr joins his new teammates in August.