By Susan Harman
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Playing against Logan Cook has to be frustrating. Every time you think you have an angle for a post feed or can hit a cutter or think you have a simple perimeter pass Cook somehow sticks a hand in between and then disappears to the other end of the court.
The West High junior is 6-foot-1, but for an opposing passer her arms must seem that long all by themselves. But Cook isn’t just a player who gums up the opposing offense by standing there with her arms outstretched. She has a sense of anticipation that is keyed by a knowledge of the game and her athletic talent.
“The whole team just does a good job,” Cook said of West’s defense. “We try to use our length to force as many turnovers as possible.”
Defense is one of the first things you notice about Cook while she’s on the floor, but it’s inextricably linked to her effort and hustle which show up on both ends of the court.
Saturday night the Women of Troy played host to Ottumwa in a 5A regional semifinal. It’s a game in which West was heavily favored and one the Trojans put away in a hurry.
But leading by 23 just before halftime there was Cook diving for a loose ball near midcourt. Diving flat out she wedged herself between a diving Ottumwa player and the ball and successfully chucked the ball to a teammate for a fast break.
It was one of five steals for Cook and the second in which she hit the deck to save the ball.
“The play that really showed how locked in we were (Saturday) was at the end of the first half when there’s a loose ball at half-court and Logan goes diving for it,” West coach B.J. Mayer said. “When one of your best players does that everybody goes, ‘Wow, this is contagious.’”
“It’s just what we do in practice. We don’t ever take a play off,” Cook said, deflecting any sort of credit.
Cook’s on-court persona is a bit different than her off-court demeanor, which is more reserved, polite and gracious.
“I’d like to see her be a little bit more vocal because she does understand the game and she’s a good leader, but she leads by example,” Mayer said. “Their family is very humble. The team is most important. It comes from mom and dad and their values.”
Cook said she’s working on that aspect of her game.
“I’ve been trying to work on my leadership skills,” she said. “Just picking my team up when it’s down and motivating everyone and being positive.
“I like to have a lot of fun. I smile a lot playing a game that I love. I think my teammates bring that out in me. They are all my best friends.”
Basketball has been part of her life since she was a toddler. Her father, Marv, and older brother Drew were standouts and now younger brother Ashton, an eighth grader at Regina, is part of the fun.
“I just love that it’s a team sport and everyone plays together; it’s so much fun for me,” Logan said. “It’s something that I have a great passion for.”
Logan played off the bench as a ninth grader but was a regular contributor a year ago averaging nine points and a team-high six rebounds. This season she leads the team in scoring (15.0) and rebounding (6.3). She also averages about two assists and two steals per game.
“She’s worked really hard,” Mayer said. “She’s a lot stronger and a lot more confident in her abilities. She’s always had the skills. You just didn’t see her able to finish inside. She’d get bumped on contact. But she’s put on a little weight and gotten stronger, and that’s helped her confidence.”
“I think my comfort level has improved,” Cook said.
Her position on the floor is sort of undefined.
“She can do a lot,” Mayer said. “She can go inside. She’s not afraid to shoot the three. She really likes to put it on the floor and get to the rim. I guess you could call her a stretch post or a stretch four.”
“I just like to play wherever coach puts me,” Cook said. “Really. Sometimes it’s the high post so I can either take them off the dribble or I can turn and shoot.”
Part of the reason she can’t be strictly defined as a post or wing is that she’s versatile and has different skills. She has a smooth jumper that she hits consistently from mid-range, while she can also post up and has good footwork inside. She can also handle the ball well, particularly for a player her size.
When she’s covered she doesn’t force the offense but finds the open teammate. It’s all part of a package that’s been there from the beginning. When Mayer talked to Cook after her freshman season he asked her what she wanted to contribute the next season.
“She said, ‘I’ll average a double-double if you want me to,’” Mayer said. “You just don’t see that in this day and age. I mean it was whatever you need me to do, I’ll try and do it.”
Cook plays AAU ball with the Barnstormers, a team that includes West teammate Rachael Saunders, among other Iowa all-staters. That spring and summer experience has helped her mature as a player as she faces quicker, stronger athletes from around the country.
“Practicing with those Barnstormer girls, that was incredible,” Cook said. “They push you in practice.”
Cook has some college offers (Creighton, Bradley, North Dakota) but is in no hurry to discuss the next step in her basketball life unless you’re asking about tonight’s game against Southeast Polk. With another spring and summer of AAU competition she likely will have multiple options.
Mayer believes Cook has a tremendous upside for a college program, even a high level Division I team, citing her skill level, her hustle and her willingness to be coached.
“The other thing that is refreshing is when those guys get (players) into programs those kids put on 20 pounds in the first year,” he said. “It’s not like she’s not going to get any bigger. She could be redshirted. I think as a sophomore or a junior, man, she could be really good at a very high level.
“But she’s not concerned about it. Her big thing is I just want to go play, get better and it will all take care of itself. She’s driven and I never put anything past those driven kids.”