When she was a little girl, Grass Lake senior Sydney Cook used to play basketball with her dad in the driveway and allow him to set the stage for her.
“Okay Syd,” he’d say. “There’s no time left on the clock in the NCAA championship game, but you’ve been fouled. If you make one free throw, we’re going to overtime. If you make them both, we win the whole thing. If you miss them, then we lose.”
Does this sound familiar? In how many driveways, backyards, playgrounds or school yards does this scenario play out? Sometimes Sydney, JTV Sports 2013 Girls Basketball Player of the Year, would nail the free throws – sometimes she would miss them. But when she missed, her dad (who coached her competitively on travels teams while she was growing up) would throws his hands up and say ‘awww, too bad – we lose.’ When she asked for another shot – perhaps a lane violation – he’d simply shake his head: “There are no do-over’s Sydney.”
In life as in basketball, there are no do-over’s. And Sydney Cook attacked her Grass Lake High School basketball career with that notion in mind.
Cook nearly averaged a double-double this year for the Warriors with 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. She also shot 80% from the free throw line and unofficially led the Cascades Conference in floor-burns for a Grass Lake team that finished 15-7 in a league dominated by eventual Class C state champion Manchester.
“You know, we started a little slowly this year,” Cook said. “We had some key seniors graduate after last year and there was a void that we had to learn to fill. It took us a while to get going but I think, once we got comfortable with each other and developed that chemistry, we did pretty well.”
The Warriors season ended in a loss to Michigan Center in the district tournament.
“Obviously the season didn’t end well,” Cook said. “We wanted another shot at Manchester but we didn’t get it.”
Still, one of her proudest moments as a Lady Warrior was when Grass Lake knocked off Manchester during her junior year.
“That’s a moment and a game that I’ll always remember,” she said. “Beating Manchester during my junior year – because they were so good and so dominant and so talented – will always stick with me. That same group of girls came back this year and won the state tournament, so being able to say we beat them last year will always be special.”
When asked if it has hit her yet that her Grass Lake career – both on the court and in the classroom – is drawing to a close, Cook hesitated.
“You know, it hits me all the time,” she finally said. “I’ve been playing with the same group of girls, for the most part, since the fourth grade. It’s hard to think that it’s over. After our last game I took my uniform off and I sort of stared at it for a long time, thinking ‘I’ll never put this on again for Grass Lake.’”
But that sense of nostalgia is tempered somewhat by the fact that Cook’s basketball playing days are not over. She has signed to play basketball next year for Siena Heights.
“Coach Davies (at Grass Lake) did a great job of contacting different coaches and getting them information and tapes on me,” Cook said. “I looked at a couple of different colleges, but I really felt comfortable at Siena Heights. And I like that it’s close to home.”
“I think I would have a much harder time if I wasn’t going to play next year in college,” she continued. “My dream has always been to play college basketball and because I’ll get a chance to do that, it does make it a little easier. Still, I’ll have all new teammates and new coaches and new uniforms. It’ll be a big adjustment.”
It’ll be a big adjustment for her family, too.
“With Sydney, it’s always been about basketball,” her mother, Deb Cook said. “I remember the whole family going to watch her play games at the YMCA when she was four years old. Even back then she was in-your-face on defense and very competitive. She grew up watching her older sister play and somewhere along the way it became ‘I want to be the best.’ When we built our home her only stipulation was it had to have a basketball court.”
There IS a basketball court at Siena Heights, of course, and Sydney Cook – JTV Sports 2013 Girls Basketball Player of the Year – will be spending a lot of time on it – working on her defense, driving to the basket, polishing her shot, practicing free-throws.
“I’m doing what I love doing,” she said. “And I’m going to do it for as long as I can.”
Because there are no do-over’s, in basketball or in life.For the complete list of the JTV Sports All-Area Team tune into the Locker Room this weekend at 10am, Noon and 6pm Saturday and Sunday.