Duke aren’t a team filled with stars, but there is a clear hierarchy, with Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry taking the higher spots. Still, Quinn Cook was the one who shined during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award while surprisingly taking over a game between two top five teams.
It was only the second time that Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski faced each other on the court, the previous one coming in a legendary game from over 20 years ago; when Duke advanced to the Final Four by beating Pitino’s Kentucky squad on Christian Laettner’s turnaround jumper at the buzzer.
That and much more made this game special for everyone involved, with the #5 Blue Devils playing the #2 Cardinals, both teams coming with a 5-0 record into the game. It was special for everyone in one of the most heralded nonconference tournament in recent memory, but it was even more special for Quinn Cook.
His dad and his mother eloped to the Bahamas, where the tournament was held, 25 years into the past. Cook, a sophomore who played sparingly last season because of an injury, is playing like a star in the making in two of the last three games, currently averaging 10.7 points and 5.5 assists for Duke.
He was even better in the closing moments against Louisville, finishing with 15 points, scoring 11 of them in the final 7 minutes, including the last 8 for the Blue Devils. It was a good day for Plumplee (16 points, 7 rebounds) and Ryan Kelly (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists), but Cook stole the show with his clutch ability and especially his decision and shot making, finishing with 6 assists and 4-8 from the field. Astonishing when compared with Seth Curry, who had a terrible 1-9 from beyond the arc. He was statistically out-shined by Peyton Siva on the other end of the floor (19 points), but his ability in the crucial moments pushed the balance in his favor.
I think since the Georgia State game, Quinn has earned the respect of everyone. What he did in the Kentucky game, everyone talks about a kid getting confidence. It’s when a team has confidence in its point guard that you take off. This team has great confidence in Quinn and he has earned it.
While winning this early season tournament was important, it was even bigger and greater for Coach K and Duke to come out of the Caribbean atmosphere with added assets. A point guard who no longer hides behinds bigger names on his team. A point guard willing to take the game on his back and so far, in the few occasions in which he had to step up, had done so with flying colors, making every right decision along the way.
I hit the 3 and that got me going. Then I hit the runner. I just wanted to stay aggressive. I was open so I shot the ball.
Early on in the season, Duke have two wins against the Kentucky teams, the Wildcats and the Cardinals. While it’s still early to know the exact direction these teams are going in, especially before the conference play begins, it seems like the Blue Devils have the right kind of manpower and quality for the tough battles waiting along the way, with some of the added firepower coming from unexpected directions.