Cook Stirs Luray
Senior Hoopster Meets Expectations
Posted: December 21, 2012
HARRISONBURG – The defining word for Luray High School senior shooting guard Braden Cook’s athletic career is probably “surprise.”
During last year’s hoops season, he was surprising other teams with his scoring, when they were more worried about teammate Monty Dickson.
During the 2012 football season, Cook was surprising his buddy, Malcolm Frye, when he threw five touchdown passes after returning from a badly sprained ankle that had sidelined him for three weeks.
And often, Cook surprises himself.
“The big thing that strikes me about him, he’s a very good athlete, but sometimes he’s the kind of kid, he’s very unassuming about the ability he does have,” LHS boys’ basketball coach Jim Sanders said.
“He’s never really been enamored with playing basketball, and never has really thought of himself [as being good] – and he doesn’t really think of himself at being great at those other sports [he plays], too. Sometimes, it’s funny, he really chuckles when he does something good.”
Even though Cook doing good things happens pretty often.
He might not be the Bulldogs’ leading scorer – he’s neck-and-neck with his buddy, Frye – but he’s up there. Cook, in his first year as an every-game starter, is averaging roughly 15 points per game, including a 25-point outing and two 18-point nights.
Frye wouldn’t mind seeing Cook put up a few more points, though.
“He doesn’t think that he needs to be shooting the ball as much, but as good as a shooter as he is, I think that he needs to be shooting the ball, putting up points for us,” Frye said. “I think he has the ability to score, and that he needs to just take advantage of it.”
Cook admits that basketball’s not his favorite sport – he prefers baseball, where he hit .426 and played multiple positions for a Luray team that made the Division 1 (smallest schools) state semifinals last season. He also said he doesn’t mind being selfish in football – after all, he doesn’t have much choice when he’s playing quarterback. After suffering a badly sprained ankle during football preseason, he returned in Week 4 and threw five touchdown passes in a win over Buffalo Gap, and ultimately led the Bulldogs to the Division 1 state playoffs.
But when it comes to hoops, Cook sometimes shies away.
“I know I can shoot, but I don’t want to be selfish,” he said. “I want to be that guy who makes the passes and the assists.”
It’s a quality that Sanders said he has to fight. He wants Cook – who’s a good shooter and driver, but has yet to develop much of a mid-range game – to be more selfish, even if it’s contrary to his character.
“I think he gets surprised at times when I get on him and tell him, ‘You need to shoot,’” Sanders said. “I think he gets surprised because I’m telling other people on the team, ‘Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot that one.’”
Cook, though, isn’t surprising opposing teams anymore.
He’s scored just nine points in his last two games, including a two-point outing in a blowout loss to William Monroe. Cook and Sanders said it’s partly because teams know about the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder now. Sanders even blamed a previous story in the DN-R this season, which cited Cook and Frye as key pieces to replace a large graduating class, including Dickson, last year’s Shenandoah District Player of the Year who’s now playing at King College (Division II).
“Last year they didn’t know who I was, because it was all about Monty,” Cook said. “Every team knew about Monty, and they left me along the 3-point line by myself, so I would always have to shoot wide open. This year, I don’t really have any open shots.”
But it’s not like Cook, who’s an avid video gamer and fisherman – and not shy in saying that he’s talented at both – is unaware of any of this. He knows that he needs to shoot more, and he knows when he has a bad game. He said he reviews his point totals after every game, and called his two-point game against Monroe “unacceptable.”
“I know I need to shoot the ball more,” he said. “My teammates dog me about it, too, because they know I can shoot really well.”
And maybe when his shots fall, it won’t be such a surprise.