Tyler Cook on NBA: 'It was a legitimate choice that I had to make'

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

It wasn't until Wednesday morning that Tyler Cook made the decision to return to Iowa for his junior basketball season, the forward told reporters Thursday in a teleconference.

"It was hard," Cook said of the nearly three months he spent exploring his NBA draft prospects before ultimately remaining a Hawkeye. "We had opportunities both ways. We just felt like coming back to Iowa was the smart decision to make."

Cook wouldn't reveal the details of what he called the best opportunity he had with an NBA team, but said: "It was a legitimate choice that I had to make."

Iowa forward Tyler Cook (5) dunks the ball in the first half at Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

When Cook takes the court this fall, it will be with a new jersey number and what he called a renewed determination to lead Iowa to a much better season than its 14-19 mark a year ago. Cook is switching to No. 25 after wearing No. 5 his first two years in Iowa City. He said he will talk later about the significance of that change.

"I've done a good job of leading by example — I'm always the first guy in the gym and I'm always the last one to leave," Cook said. "Trying to motivate other guys to be the best that they can be is something I feel I'll do a better job of this year."

Cook said he had reached out to some of his teammates in the 18 hours since he announced his decision Wednesday evening. He said they talked about what needs to change for Iowa to become a winning team again.

"They expressed how happy they are to have me back for another season," Cook said.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said he's certainly happy to have his leading scorer (15.3 points per game) and rebounder (6.8) back in the fold. But he reiterated that Cook's plan all along had been to seek feedback from NBA personnel about whether he was ready for the next level.

"I'm sort of baffled by everybody's surprise," McCaffery said. "The kid wants to play in the NBA and I want him to play in the NBA. I want to be part of helping him reach his dream. ... If the indication was he would be a first-round pick, he'd be gone — and he should be gone. I think everybody overanalyzed what happened. He did exactly what he said he would do. Pretty simple."

McCaffery noted that Cook improved his statistics between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and projected a similar gain this winter, especially after getting feedback from six NBA workouts.

"He's going to take that information and go to work," McCaffery said. "He's always put winning above everything."