Quinn Cook with his MVP trophy after Duke won the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Credit: JOHN BAZEMORE/AP
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas—Before you dive into these thoughts of mine, be sure to swim over to the game story from No. 5 Duke's win over No. 2 Louisville.
And, yes, that was an attempt at cleverness at 1:30 in the morning.
***Quinn Cook’s parents were married at the Atlantis resort 25 years ago, and his mother, Janet, said it was like a “storybook” to watch her son play and win tournament MVP.
Janet was originally supposed to return to work today but was able to stay.
Cook’s rise to treasured and trusted Duke point guard has been sudden. After two poor exhibition games, he lost his starting spot. After a good week of practice in which he tightened up his passes (and turned in a solid performance off the bench against Kentucky), Cook earned back his starting position by the Florida Gulf Coast game. He said the quick change in fortune has even surprised him.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters one reason why Cook returned to good graces so quickly after the game.
“The main thing Quinn has done is that he hasn’t shown any weakness,” Krzyzewski said. “He has a great face, great demeanor, and he’s in incredible shape. He doesn’t get tired. He has the demeanor of an outstanding player. A leader has to look strong before he is strong.”
And Cook gets a good deal of his strength from his teammates.
“My teammates believe in me, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.
***On that note, before Cook shot a pair of his late-game free throws, Mason Plumlee grabbed him and told him he believed in him.
“That just meant the world to me,” Cook said.
***Duke managed to beat Louisville despite shooting a season-low 25 percent (5-for-20) from 3-point range (close followers of the Blue Devils' adventures thus far will remember a 1-for-17 performance in the exhibition against Winston-Salem State, but that doesn’t officially count).
All that said, the biggest play of the game was Seth Curry hitting a 3 to put the Blue Devils back ahead 64-61 with 4:26 remaining in the game.
***Until Cook made his floater to give Duke a two-possession, 72-67 edge with 29 seconds remaining, the game’s outcome was in serious question. Strangely enough, though, Duke only trailed for 1:20 of the game.
***Louisville head coach Rick Pitino offered a few thoughts about Duke after the game.
“I don’t think this team necessarily wins because their talent is unbelievable,” he said. “They have good talent, and I’m not denigrating their talent at all. They’ve got good basketball players. But I think they have a system that is outstanding, and they never beat themselves.
Part of that system includes three seniors—a rarity in college basketball. Pitino shared his theory on why that’s the case.
“I think when you go to Duke, you go for more than basketball,” Pitino said. “Although they’ve had their share of one-and-dones, you go to Duke for multiple reasons. I think their players really develop.
“If I had some guys who were ready for the pros, I’d encourage them to go, but every single player I’ve ever coached who is in the NBA says how much they miss their college days. They’re (Duke players) getting the benefit. A lot of those guys won’t play in the NBA, and like I tell my guys all the time, 85 percent of the NBA is role players. So, they’ve got guys who will play in the league, but they’ve got role guys. And they’ve got a Duke education, they learn the game under the best since Coach (John) Wooden, so it’s an awesome experience for those kids.”
***I asked Krzyzewski after the game what he learned about his team over these three days. This was his response:
"I have winners. Tough kids. I know off the court that we are an amazingly together group. This is a great group of guys. And now we know that, on the court, they're that. The camaraderie, great togetherness, they've been fun to coach. I told them after the game that it was an honor to coach them in tonight's game."