Even though a historic freshman class propelled Duke to its fifth championship last month, the unsung hero for the Blue Devils was their lone senior.
Quinn Cook set the tone for the season when he ceded the starting point guard job to Tyus Jones without complaint, thrived despite moving off ball and evolved into the veteran leader such a young team needed.
An emotional Cook reflected on his journey at Duke's end-of-the-year banquet in the video above. He began by sharing the story of the nadir of his Duke career, a 2011 Maui Invitational matchup with Michigan in which he went scoreless and barely played.
"My team's doing well, and we're playing great," Cook recalled. "Every time someone made a shot, the bench goes crazy, but you see little Quinn not cheering at all. I wouldn't get up, nothing, because I was embarrassed I wasn't playing.
"The next day, Coach K tells me he has some clips to show me. I'm thinking, 'What are they about to show? I didn't play.' They showed me not cheering, me not doing anything. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I felt me and coach Capel had a great relationship, and he told me, 'You should take that jersey off and go home.' From there, I changed."
Cook became a productive player for Duke the next two years, but Mike Krzyzewski needed more from him as a senior. The Duke coach had a heart-to-heart chat with Cook last offseason that the senior guard says has stuck with him ever since.
"You called me and my mom into a meeting and you were brutally honest, but you gave me confidence I could lead these guys," Cook said to Krzyzewski. "From that day on, I didn't want to let you down. I made it my agenda to be the first one at practice and the last one to leave."
It helped Cook that he had teammates eager to be led. He cited numerous examples, from Jahlil Okafor texting after last year's opening-round NCAA tournament loss to Mercer say that won't happen again, to Justise Winslow asking for guidance and tough love before he even got to campus, to Tyus Jones comparing he and Cook to Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright the night of last year's national title game.
"I get all this credit for being a great leader, but you guys were so easy to lead, especially the young guys," Cook said. "I can remember us getting in a group chat the day UConn played UK last year and saying that was going to be us next year."
That prediction came true for Duke. And self-deprecating as Cook is, he was a big part of it.
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