April 25, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. - University of Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt took another step toward rounding out the 2012-13 Cowboy roster on Wednesday, when he announced that 6-9, 195-pound forward Derek Cooke Jr. has signed a National Letter of Intent and will transfer to UW from Cloud County Community College. Cooke will have three years of eligibility remaining.
"Our coaching staff got to see Derek play multiple times and, unlike many transfers, got to spend a lot of time with him off the floor," Shyatt said. "He has a tremendous upside, and more importantly is a terrific student from a wonderful family that has a great story to tell. Our staff felt like he was not only the best available prospect in the country, but will have three years with us as well. He possesses naivety due to his late development, which is unique these days."
Cooke (pronounced Cook) has spent the previous two seasons at Cloud County under the direction of head coach Chad Eshbaugh. Cooke used a redshirt in 2010-11, before helping the Thunderbirds to a 25-8 overall record during the 2011-12 campaign. Cloud County went 11-5 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference and advanced to the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I Region VI Tournament. Cooke notched team highs of 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 55 percent from the floor to go with 6.0 points and nearly one steal per game.
"The most impressive thing to me was Derek's quickness and ability to run the floor at both ends," Shyatt said. "He has terrific quick feet and is somebody that can play defense out on the floor and inside. He is going to give us a level of athleticism we actually haven't had on the interior, and is capable of playing both interior positions. I look down the road for him to potentially be a flower that we see bloom in front of us."
Cooke attended Friendly High School in Washington, D.C., where he was a 6-2 wide receiver on the football team. An NCAA qualifier after graduating, he decided to take a year off from school and hit a growth spurt, before enrolling at Cloud County to play his first organized basketball. Cooke is the son of Derek Sr. and Debbie Cooke-Slade. His stepdad is Tyrone Slade.
"Derek is a breath of fresh air because of the story he has unfolded," Shyatt said. "He has a low ego and high level of passion, which every coach wants."
Cooke was also recruited by Missouri State and Evansville.