A couple of the state’s biggest recruiting questions were answered late Tuesday night.
Walker’s Jalen Cook committed to LSU, where he’ll play basketball for coach Will Wade. He's the state's No. 2 overall prospect, No. 22 rated point guard and nation's No. 114 rated player according to 247 Sports.
Cook, the Tigers' first commitment in the Class of 2020, said he’s happy to have the decision behind him heading into his senior season.
“I always looked at it as a blessing,” he said of the recruiting process. “I’m very lucky to be in this position to even be considering all these D-I schools. At times when I felt pressure, I always just went back and just looked at it as a blessing and an opportunity of a lifetime that kids would die to be in my shoes. I can’t complain. I’m very excited. Very excited.”
Cook, who mentioned Houston, Georgetown, Wichita State and Tulane as some of the schools who were recruiting him for basketball, said having former Denham Springs High standout Tasmin Mitchell on Wade’s LSU staff was a big factor in his decision. Mitchell was recently added to Wade's full-time coaching staff.
“The coaches, they just felt like family,” Cook said. “Tasmin Mitchell, him being from my hometown. I’ve been knowing him basically all my life. Coach Will has been talking to me since basically my freshman year. He just always encouraged me to be the best player I can be. I just feel like that’s real, and all the coaches, they’ve just been real with me and everything. I just feel comfortable with it.”
Staying close to home was another plus for Cook.
“It’s home,” Cook said. “I love where I live. I love where I stay. I love Louisiana, so it’s home. I don’t want to leave home.
“I love when my family (will) be able to come see me,” Cook continued. “Me being home, it wouldn’t be hard at all. I would have the whole (city of) Walker in there, and that would be awesome. I always want that.”
Walker coach Anthony Schiro had nothing but praise for Cook and said he made some program history with his commitment.
Cook caught 47 passes for 624 yards and 9 touchdowns and returned 10 kicks for a 37.5-yard average with two touchdowns, earning first team All-Parish honors and honorable mention All-State honors in football last season, but he’s turning his attention solely to basketball at LSU.
“It was very hard because I’ve basically been playing football all my life,” Cook said of the decision. “It was very hard, but at the end of the day, I had to go with what I love and just live with it. Dad (Eric Cook) always told me whatever I love, just have fun with it. I never want to half-step anything. Basketball’s just really what I love and want to do.”
Cook’s decision to focus solely on basketball comes after a junior season in which he earned the state’s Mr. Basketball honor while also being named the All-Parish Outstanding Player, the District 4-5A MVP, Class 5A first team All-State Outstanding Player and Gatorade Player of the Year for the state.
For good measure, he was selected the Outstanding Player of the Marsh Madness state tournament after helping Walker to a state runner-up finish.
As a junior, Cook scored 1,152 points, helping him reach 2,000 in his career. He averaged of 28.8 points to go along with 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 steals.
He’s hoping that by committing to LSU now, he can expand on those numbers and help Walker make another deep playoff run as a senior.
“I wanted to get it out of the way so I can really just enjoy my senior year with no regrets – just get it out of the way and just be relieved my whole senior year,” Cook said. “That’s probably going to make me play even better knowing that I made that commitment.”
Cook said he has no regrets about his decision.
“If I thought I had any regrets, I wouldn’t have made the decision,” he said. “I’m just going in it head-first. I just want to thank God for it. My family. All the people that have been supporting me – my brothers. I just want to thank them for everything.”