By Adam Hensley
Tyler Cook spent most of his freshman season with his head above the rim, throwing down vicious dunks.
In the off-season, however, he spent his time in the film room.
“There’s not one [guy] that I try to take everything from, but I can learn something from everybody, from Kyrie [Irving] to Andre Drummond,” Cook said. “I just watch everybody I can to try to pick stuff up from their games.”
Cook, who had most of his success last season in the post, wanted to sharpen his outside game and his ball handling. The film study and time in the gym paid off.
“I can still be effective in a lot of different ways,” he said. “The fact that I’m making shots now, I’m a threat from anywhere.”
When Iowa opens the season tonight in Carver-Hawkeye against Chicago State, Hawkeye fans will get their first glimpse of a revamped Cook in a game that counts.
In Iowa’s two exhibition games, the sophomore didn’t disappoint anyone.
Cook averaged 20 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 0.5 steals in Iowa’s contests against William Jewell and Belmont Abbey.
He only turned the ball over 3 times over the course of both games.
“I think what you’re seeing is a guy who’s shooting the ball better from the outside, handling the ball and passing it really well,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He always had that skill, but sometimes he would go too fast or go too soon and turn it over. He’s not doing that.”
McCaffery has plenty of options for how to spread the floor, especially when working in players from the second unit into the starting five.
During practice, and even a little bit in exhibition games, Cook played out on the wing, taking the role of a small forward rather than his traditional power-forward position, and he said the transition proved to be smooth.
“There’s really not been much of a transition at all just because the way our offense runs,” he said. “We’re all interchangeable in any way. Whatever lineup coach has in the game, depending on who we have, I could be at the 3, I could be at the 4, or 5.”
For Cook, it’s all about being comfortable. He noted that in his transition to more outside play, he needed to key on his pace.
McCaffery took note, saying Cook has a “much better pace to his game.”
“[Cook] really matured,” the coach said. “I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s an incredible worker. He’s got the frame, obviously, to dominate a game. Well, we saw him dominate games last year.”
The Hawkeyes will tip off at 8:05 p.m. today, and Cook’s new game won’t be the only difference from last season’s squad.
Tonight marks the beginning of life without Peter Jok, who graduated after leading the Hawkeyes in scoring with more than 19 points per game.
“It’s kind of like last year when Pete went down in the middle of the season, and we all bounced back from that,” sophomore point guard Jordan Bohannon said.
McCaffery doesn’t have a go-to scorer — yet — as he’s had in the past; instead, the coach commands a lineup possible of scoring from all areas of the court, and Cook’s offensive expansion seems to be a scoring catalyst.