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Omar cooking up a storm

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Several reports last week had St. John’s University freshman point guard Omar Cook all but a lock for the NBA draft in June. However, the Brooklyn native out of Christ the King High School has remained tight-lipped on his plans, leaving sources to differ about his future.

According to one source close to Cook, the nation’s leading Division I assist man is “definitely leaning towards going [to the NBA],” but that those plans are hardly written in stone.

“He is discussing all his options with his family and close friends,” the source said. “He’s not 100 percent in either direction. He should be making a decision in the next week or so.”

The source said that Cook’s main reason for exploring his NBA options is the performance of the Red Storm this season and the fact that the team may be no better off next year.

Cook’s superior play at the point guard position this season could not lift the Storm back to post-season play. After a promising start to the season, the Johnnies finished with a 14-15 record, failing to make either the NCAA or NIT tournaments.

“[If he stays] he can improve as a player, but his team situation may not change,” the source said. “He needs players around him. He’s a playmaker first, a scorer second.

“The losses hurt that kid,” the source added. “He doesn’t take losing easily. It’s hard for him. A lot of it may have to do with next year’s situation at St. John’s.”

Another source close to the St. John’s program said “NBA scouts I speak to say he is better served to stay in school. Omar never said he is coming out. The people around him said he might. He is still going to school and to workouts, which lead me to believe he will stay in school. Omar has always done what is best for Omar.”

Red Storm head coach Mike Jarvis said he and Cook have discussed whether the powerful 6-foot-1 freshman should leave school, but added that Cook is still attending class and doing everything he needed to do to remain eligible for next season.

“Until he comes in and tells me that he’s not going be here, he is here,” Jarvis said, “doing all the things he needs to do.”

And while Jarvis was more than pleased with the play of Cook this season, he also said he does not feel his star is ready to take the step up to the next level. At least not yet.

“In my opinion he’s definitely not ready for the NBA,” Jarvis said. “Even he realizes how much work he needs to do.”

Numerous NBA scouts have said that Cook would be selected no higher than late in the first round.

“I think he’s obviously a skilled player and he has been for some time,” said one Eastern Conference scout. “We like his quickness and we like his toughness. He obviously has to improve his shot selection and his perimeter game, but he has the gumption to take that last-second shot and you gotta like that.

“I don’t think he’d be a lottery selection,” the scout added. “I think he’s a first round pick, maybe top 20 to 25.”

Another scout from the Eastern Conference said he believed Cook should “stay in school” for at least another year.

According to several published reports, Cook is ready to sign with agents Carl and Kevin Poston of Professional Sports Planning, Inc., a company which boasts NBA stars Robert Horry and Penny Hardaway among its clientele, assuring his still-pending bolt from St. John’s.

Talk of Cook leaving leveled off late last week, reportedly when Cook began having second doubts regarding his position in the draft and that of his prospective agents — one of whom is reportedly under investigation by the NFL Players Association while the other was allegedly named in a federal indictment of a Kansas City street agent.

A source close to Cook added that no one got in Cook’s ear and that this decision, whether it pans out or not, is very much his own.

“His family’s very strong,” the source said. “Nobody got near Omar. I just think he’s unsure. He hasn’t been tugged upon. They’re not pressuring him to leave school.”

But the likelihood of Cook’s departure is still very much real and something Jarvis and Co. at St. John’s are prepared to deal with.

“We’re operating under the fact that he will be here,” Jarvis said. “If he’s not, we’ll make the adjustments. We just want to keep getting better.”

Jarvis said the team was already recruiting a legitimate back-up for Cook, as well as a shooting guard, two positions the coach said he hopes will be filled after the first week in April.

One source close to the situation said St. John’s could very well pick up Amityville point guard Tristan Smith, while the school’s interest in junior college sensation Marcus Hatten for its other backcourt slot is widely known.

“Thank God we’ve already been recruiting,” Jarvis said.

The university added that Cook has not said anything one way or another and has made no plans with them to announce anything publicly. Until he does, however, the debate and speculation will rage.

“I hope he stays for coach Jarvis,” one NBA scout said. “He’s going to be [in the NBA] eventually. I think he’s a big-time talent.”

Cook’s decision, a source said, will also depend on where he would go in the June draft.

“I think if he gets the right draft position he should go,” the source said. “If he doesn’t, he should leave the option to go back. Anyone in the world would give him that advice.”

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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