ST. LOUIS, Mo–Saturday figures to be an important day for the Westminster Christian Academy boys basketball program. The Wildcats will be in Springfield playing in the Class 4 state championship game against either Vashon or Blair Oaks in the afternoon. In the evening in Indianapolis, an alum will take the first step toward what could be run to an NCAA tournament championship.
Aaron Cook, who led the Wildcats in just about everything before graduating and playing at Southern Illinois, is a graduate transfer for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the overall tournament No. 1 seed, and the top seed in the West bracket.
After being a two year starter for the Salukis, Cook broke his hand shortly after the start of the 2019-2020 season and received a medical redshirt to end a season that began with him averaging 15 points per game.
He announced his decision to transfer last April.
With the Bulldogs stacked with talent in starter’s roles, Cook has been doing a lot of the little things, what hoops junkies call “a glue guy” sort of role, averaging 4.4 points a game off the bench.
His sister, a former basketball player in her own right, and his high school head coach tell FOX2 this opportunity for a run at a title is the result of hard work to reach a goal.
“Aaron has always been that kind of guy who’s been a ‘team-first guy’ and I do think he’s done a lot of the little things behind the scenes that no one sees and I’m just so glad that he’s got a chance now on the national stage maybe to do something special,” Doug Coleman, now the Head Coach at Lutheran St. Charles said of his former Westminster guard.
Aaryana Cook, his younger sister who played in high school at Jennings and Oakville before college stops at Three Rivers Community College and Missouri Baptist, said Aaron was looking for a team that defined the ethos of “team basketball” and found it in Spokane.
Count her among those least surprised that the season has played out as it has on the court, with Gonzaga atop the standings and positioned as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in Indianapolis next month. She’s felt that way “from the jump,” she said.
“Just watching him play over the years I’ve always expected him to be where he is now so just watching those AAU games its like another AAU championship game but it’s much, much bigger,” Cook said.
There are a total of 13 players from the St. Louis area who are in this year’s tournament, including three who are on the Missouri roster, a potential second round foe if the Tigers can knock off Oklahoma. Coleman said he could recall a legendary battle between Cook and Missouri reserve guard Torrence Watson, where Westminster bested Whitfield in the annual MICDS tourney.
But this is a different stage, and Cook’s team may be most equipped of all for a deep run. If coronavirus protocols allow it, Aaryana Cook hopes to be in attendance, calling out pointers so loud that the television audience will be able to hear it back home. Regardless, she’s excited about the opportunity the audience will get to see her brother’s work.
“He’s very happy that he got the opportunity to be where he is and he’s really, really worked hard for it. He’s put in everything he has to get to where he is so I know he’s excited. I hope that everybody gets to see that in the tournament.”