Senior guard Jackie Cook was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week on Nov. 19 and has helped lead her team to a 4-0 start. “With this being my last go around, I just [want to] leave it all out on the floor,” Cook said, “I want to be that teammate where all the other teammates can count on me. Know that I’m [going to] go to war for them.”
The four-year Lady Monarch standout has been the driving force for her ball club through five games so far, leading the team in points with 75. With that production, the Hinckley, Ohio native pushed ODU to their first 4-0 start since the 1998-99 season.
Head coach Karen Barefoot has led her team to carry a new defensive mindset, one that’s resulted in the team giving up less than 50 points per contest on the defensive end. Their newly found intensity and drive are inspired by an unexpected source: an author.
“Our whole theme has been the energy bust this year. We read this book by John Gordon and he’s just so positive in his mindset, so that’s sort of what we started to adopt,” Cook said. “Seeing ourselves being successful which will turn to having success.”
The transformation on the defensive end has certainly been noticeable. Last season, opponents averaged 70.5 points per game, shot 41.5 percent from the floor and 31.9 percent from three point range. However, this core group comprised of seven underclassmen have sliced the opponent’s scoring average almost in half.
This team is defensively oriented. It starts with the backcourt and works its way down to the front line, where Cook gets her plethora of scoring opportunities.
“It definitely starts with our two point guards though. Galaisha Goodhope and Ashley Betz-White put tremendous ball pressure [on the opposition]. And it starts with them and filters down to the rest of us.”
During win streaks, players often tend to repeat rituals or routines that have superstitiously attributed to their success. And this senior guard is no different. Although her team doesn’t seem to be following any, Cook has worn a piece of attire she feels that’s led to her current success in this early run towards the top of the heap.
“I wear an orange sports bra and everyone’s like, why the heck do you wear that,” Cook admitted. “Especially with the white uniforms because you can see through it. So that’s one of mine, I’ve been wearing the same one since we’ve kept winning.”
The story that got the most buzz during the offseason is the school’s conference realignment to the Conference-USA. But CAA restrictions aside, Cook suggests the team has a chip on their shoulder and are going out each contest with something to prove.
“We can only get an at-large bid, we can only win the conference outright. So those are our goals going into every single game,” Cook said.
After hosting NC Central on Friday, the Lady Monarchs head out west to Las Vegas for the World Vision Classic on Dec. 19. While the team has passed the early test with a perfect record at home Cook understands the vital importance of avoiding complacency and being battle tested away from the Ted.
The team went 4-9 last year on the road and 4-5 in conference play. In order to be consistently successful this season, the goal is to not get too complacent.
“We’re not satisfied at all. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great start, but we have our eyes on a bigger picture, a bigger goal in mind,” Cook said. “So we just go into every single game preparing the same way, whether it’s the number 10 team or another mid-major who’s not ranked. We play every game the same.”
One date metaphorically circle on the senior’s calendar is May 10, 2013. That date signals the start of ODU Commencement ceremony for Monarch seniors. However, much is still up in the air for the communications major. Playing professional basketball for a living outside of the country has been a goal of hers, but she’s not looking past the next opponent on the schedule.
“So many people have asked me what my plans are after I graduate. But to be completely honest, I’ve given it a little thought but I’m really focused on the season,” Cook said. “If I got an opportunity to play overseas, that would be awesome.”
As far as her legacy is concerned, Cook would like to be remembered as a team player. Her four years have culminated in building camaraderie with many players and coaches in the women’s program. One of her goals is to be known as someone who protected and honored the rich history and tradition of Lady Monarch’s basketball.
“I’d like to be thought of as that teammate who would go to war for anyone on her team who gave it her all. Who tried to bring ODU back to their winning days, just a hard worker.”
With goals and aspirations in mind, Cook intends to valiantly compete for her team’s spot amongst the upper echelon of elite women’s basketball programs in the nation. It is a season that will ultimately define her legacy and could cement her place in Lady Monarch’s hoops history with other former greats. Thus, the senior guard is unequivocally up for the challenge. This year, Cook fully intends to stay hungry and pan-sear the competition on both sides.
By: Brian Jerry