Yesterday’s “Where are they now?” post on Troy Bell generated a lot of discussion of our favorite has-beens. We saw all sorts of names: Dajuan Wagner, Scotty Thurman, Harold Miner and even David Benoit. So we’re going to do what we can to dig up information and catch you up to speed on everyone.
One name I saw come up that really struck a chord with me was Omar Cook. I remember reading all about him in magazines when he was just a sophomore at Christ the King High School in Queens, NY. Cook, along with Andre Barrett and Taliek Brown were billed as the “Holy Trinity” and were supposed to be the three of the greatest guards to ever come out of the city.
Obviously we know that stardom wasn’t in the cards for the NYC trio. Cook was the only one out of the three to get drafted. After one season at St. Johns – where he led college basketball in assists – Cook thought he was a lock for the lottery so he threw his name in the 2000 Draft. Omar was drafted in the second round by Orlando and found himself unemployed after training camp.
Cook spent the next four years playing in the D-League and occasionally scoring a 10-day NBA contract. The closest he got to stability was playing 17 games for the Blazers in the 2003-04 season. His decision to leave school early made him the poster child for why underclassman should stay in school. Dick Vitale and Andy Katz routinely bring him up at the draft each year.
In recent years, Cook has almost completely fallen off the NBA radar. While people are quick to call is career a waste, Cook has been making paper playing in some of the best leagues in France, Russia and Spain. In 2008, he played alongside Marcus Haislip on Unicaja Malaga in Spain where he averaged 6.1 points and 4.5 assists. Last year, the Fort Greene in Brooklyn native received his Montenegrin citizenship making him eligible to play for their national team.
A lot has been made about Cook’s decision to enter the League too soon. And while he probably could have been a solid NBA pro if he waited longer and developed a jump shot, I think he’s had a fairly successful career. He’s probably made a couple of million over the years and I’m sure his journey grounded him. I remember seeing him at the airport in Salt Lake City as he was returning home to New York after playing for the Bobcats in the 2004 Summer League in Utah. He was humble and told me he didn’t have regrets about leaving and believed he would make the NBA if he kept working hard. Maybe he still can.