DURHAM – Quinn Cook's junior season has been hit and miss. Of all Duke's players, he, along with Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, was an entrenched starter before the season. The starting point guard job was Cook's last season and certainly his this season, and for 20 games, he was the starter.
After erratic play, though, Cook did not start the 21st game at Pittsburgh, a Duke win.
Cook was re-inserted as a starter for the first matchup against Syracuse, and it was a low point of his year from a scoring perspective. He shot 2-for-12 from the floor – which included seven missed three-pointers – and scored seven points in 40 minutes. (He did have five assists in the game.) Cook has started once in the five games since then, during which time Rasheed Sulaimon has emerged as a capable point guard.
Sulaimon struggled in Thursday's loss to North Carolina, missing eight of his 10 field goals, scoring six points and failing to record an assist in 35 minutes, so it is plausible Cook is put back into the starting five for today's game against Syracuse. The Orange (surprise) is one of the top defensive teams in the country, so whomever plays points guard for Duke must be good for the Blue Devils to win.
Cook is a fairly traditional point guard who is at his best when he is setting up his teammates. Cook can shoot, though he has been inconsistent, shooting 43 percent this year. He was very effective against UNC, with 17 points off the bench and good defense on Tar Heels point guard Marcus Paige.
Cook is an emotional player, which works both against him and to his credit. He can ride a wave of energy to score 25; he also can become impatient and force offense when it isn't there. But, again, when he looks to be a distributor first, he is an elite college basketball point guard. (He ranks second in the ACC in assists.)
The key could his defense. When he makes big plays on defense – and then struts in front of the Cameron Crazies – he often plays his best on offense, too. Defense can be an inciter for him, like it was against North Carolina, where he had two big steals. Those type of plays will be important for his game.
If Cook's good energy becomes part of the game early, Duke stands a good shot of winning its 31st straight game at Cameron.
If not, Sulaimon will need another clutch night against the Orange.