WALKER – Not long after last Thursday’s practice, Walker High’s Jalen Cook informed his coach Anthony Schiro that his afternoon wasn’t finished.
Cook’s father, Eric, had just arrived at Walker’s gymnasium in order to put his son through an additional workout consisting of shooting and dribbling.
Jalen Cook started aligning chairs and cones on the court where he started weaving his way through the obstacles, working on his moves as Eric, armed with a broomstick near the goal, challenged his son’s shots to further work on trajectory and touch.
And this was two days after the younger Cook, an LSU signee, had reached the latest milestone in a decorated career, which included surpassing the 3,000-point career scoring mark.
“These are things he needs to work on to be good at this level and things he needs to move on to the next level,” Schiro explained. “It’s a never-ending process. He’s never satisfied.”
Since breaking into the team’s starting lineup during his freshman season, it’s easy to understand the path Cook’s career would take, a year later helping to combine with a talented team in bringing home Walker’s boys first state championship.
Cook has won the parish’s MVP honor three straight years and last season was not only named the Class 5A state MVP and state tournament MVP after helping the Wildcats to a state runner-up finish, he was selected the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year after averaging nearly 30 points a game.
He realized a life-long goal in November, signing with LSU – becoming the first basketball player from Walker to sign with a Power 5 Conference school.
“It’s not by accident,” Schiro said. “He has natural ability, but he definitely works on different ways to score the basketball.”
Cook reached 1,000 points by his sophomore year, cracked 2,000 points during his junior year and continued his ascent this season, where he’s averaged 33 points.
He reached the 3,000-point plateau during a Jan. 14 road game against East Ascension in which Cook erupted for 51 points, his second straight 50-plus output. Four days earlier, he scored a career-best 53 points at Catholic High.
“It’s just a blessing from God,” said Cook, who has scored 3,065 points in his four-year career. “I never would have I thought I would be in this position. I just thank God for it. All the hard work paid off.”
Cook’s recent scoring binge was in response to Walker having to play without injured starters Brian Thomas and Donald Butler Jr.
“Them going down took a toll on us,” Cook said. “Going into the games, I knew I would have to assume more of the scoring load. You have two players that are hurt, and I went in trying to get the job done.”
Cook said he’s long had a scorer’s mentality but learned as a developing point guard the art of getting his teammates involved into the flow of a game. He also worked on other aspects of his game such defense in order to become a more well-rounded player.
“I’ve always been a scorer and always loved to shoot it,” he said. “I always loved playing defense for my team, being a team player. I loved to see other players get buckets. I came up playing with people I’m close with and striving on teamwork.”
Walker went on the road last Tuesday for a 77-53 victory over Denham Springs as Cook scored 19 points in just over two quarters of action and was honored for his latest achievement when the Wildcats hosted Sophie B. Wright on Jan. 24.
Schiro presented Cook with his latest landmark plaque before the game.
“There’s something bigger for him,” Schiro said. “He wants to get better. He wants to get his team better. He’s got a bigger goal in mind.”
Amid family and friends, and an adoring community, Cook was appreciative of the moment but didn’t allow it to disrupt his focus on the task at hand.
In Walker’s 79-58 victory, Cook overcome a scoreless opening quarter to post a team-high 32 points with 23 of those coming in the second half.
“It was a real good experience,” Cook said. “All of my family was there to see me get the plaque, all the people in town that have seen me grow up. I don’t really think of those milestones while I play. It’s an honor to be in that conversation. It’s just a blessing from God. All the hard work in the gym and getting the shots up really paid off.”