Sunday, September 27, 2015

VCU Offers Cook

Despite minimal basketball activity, Class of 2016 Center Levi Cook has dropped 16 pounds the past four weeks.

Yes, the 6-foot-10, 284-pound gargantuan, recovering from a torn ACL, is more mobile and lighter. Cook's weight on the mid to high-major Division-I scales? Heavier.

On Saturday, Virginia Commonwealth became the first school of Cook's current quintent (Virginia Tech, Providence, VCU, Florida, and most recently Longwood) to offer. Since re-opening his recruitment following a de-commitment from West Virginia, Cook has emerged into one of the country's most coveted natural bigs.

"VCU is pretty close to home and I like the the Richmond area," said Cook, now at Elev8 Prep in South Florida.

"I've been playing AAU games there with the West Virginia Wildcats since my ninth grade year. So, I'm pretty familiar with the area. The coaches seem very cool so far and they're showing me love, so I appreciate that."

Cook said he's been chomping at the bit to get back on the court, following a six-month sabbatical. The prolonged period of stagnancy, Cook said, reminded him of his true love affair with the game of basketball.

"Getting healthy again is a great feeling," Cook said.

"I'm out here doing my thing again. I could have come back a whole lot worse from this injury. God helped me come back a lot stronger. I'm just blessed. Simple as that.

As of right now, Cook cannot pinpoint a leader in his recruitment process. If it were a race, Virginia Tech appears to be jockeying for the front-runner position.

"Virginia Tech's recruiting me the hardest, Longwood University has been recruiting me really hard recently," explained Cook.

"(Longwood) coach Adam (Williams), he's a West Virginia boy. He's always been supportive of me. Right now he's recruiting me hard. Providence is also talking to me. Right now, I'm just looking forward to the season and enjoying the process of getting back."

Cook said his initial commitment to West Virginia seemed like too much, too soon. He never thoroughly weighed any alternative options, he said.

While cutting weight during arduous beach workouts under the blistering Florida sun is no simple task, reneging on his WVU commitment wasn't much easier.

He said he harbors no ill will toward the Mountaineers, the program which he grew up idolizing.

"A voice in my head told me to (de-commit)," Cook said.

"I just didn't feel like it was the right fit for me, basketball-wise. I didn't think I was meant to go there. It was nothing personal. It had nothing to do with my relationship with the coaching staff. Coach (Bobby) Huggins is great people. I trust Huggs a whole lot. Coach Billy Hahn, coach (Ron) Everhard, coach (Erik) Martin, they're all great coaches. I trust them all."

Vowing to take his sweet time in this second go-around, Cook said there is no timetable on his decision. Ideally, he would like decide when the season is over.

At Huntington Prep (W.V.), Cook was a cerebral passing interior presence. A central component of a formidable frontline, Cook was bordered by top-flight bigs such as Thomas Bryant, Miles Bridges, Ted Kapita, Angel Delgado, and Karim Ezzendine.

At Elev8, which was rather thin inside the post last season, Cook will have a brother in arms in 6-foot-11 Sam Alabakis.

Alabakis, an Australian import who didn't pick up a basketball until 2011, has surfaced as an athletic and high-efficiency source inside. He's a low Division-I prospect.

"First off, I think big Sam's the man," Cook said of his teammate.

"A lot of schools are passing on him. He's going to end up making them look dumb for doing so. We're going to be fine in the bigs department. We're pretty deep. There is no reason why we can't win a national championship."

Propelling Cook's evolution as a lighter threat has been Tony Falce, a local area master professional trainer via California. Known for his monstrous beach workouts, Falce has been working with Miami Heat forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen for 10 years.

Falce recently worked out Miami skyriser Tyler Johnson, who trains with Elev8's Cody Toppert.

"I love big Tony, he's really opened my eyes up and shown me various ways to help me with my diet," Cook said.

"He's getting my body cut up already. I've only been down here (in Delray Beach, Fla.) four weeks and I'm already noticing changes. Even if I'm hurt, he knows I'm going to work so he always gives me stuff to do to sweat some weight out. He'll have me walking over a hill with a 15-pound sandbag over my head. Birdman and them don't just work out with him for no reason. Coach Tony know what he's doing."

Cook knows what he needs to be doing in Elev8's thirst for national supremacy. He'll provide adequate rim protection, blocking and manipulating shots.

 He'll likely solidify the post, with a propensity for scoring via dunks, stickbacks, and point-blank shots, providing interior manpower. The slimmer look is in alignment with Elev8's souped-up, go-go transition game.

VCU was the third school Cook visited on a recruiting trip. He recalls listening to then-coach Shaka Smart, soaking up a wealth of knowledge.

"I know (coach Smart) is at Texas now, but it's no different," Cook said. "A lot of the guys who were there during my visit are seniors now. VCU has a lot of good stuff for me. I'm just grateful for the recognitiona and the opportunity."