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Daequan Cook - He was awesome in the 8th grade

Grantland's Mark Titus shares his insight on guys he's played with throughout his life, what he expected them to be, and what they actually turned out to be as players. In case you've forgotten, Daequan Cook is a Bull, but apparently he was the bees knees in 8th grade. (Also, not sure about this Titus guy, he calls Nate the best player on the team and I'm not sure if he's joking or not). What he was: I've known Daequan since we played on the same AAU team in eighth grade. And even though a majority of you will roll your eyes when I say this, I'm 100 percent serious when I say that he was the best eighth-grade basketball player I've ever seen. Even back then, he had NBA range, he could hit fadeaways and step-backs with ease, and he had at least a 40-inch vertical.2 Then this happened during our junior year in high school: Our team had an 8 a.m. tournament game on Saturday in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We were told Daequan wouldn't make it to the tournament until Saturday night because his high school's prom was being held Friday night in Dayton, Ohio (two and a half hours away). But at 7:58, while the rest of the team was warming up, Daequan walked into the gym, went straight to the bench to put on his sneakers, and told our coach he was going to start. Two minutes later, Greg Oden won the opening tip, then Mike Conley took two dribbles and threw a lob from half court to Daequan, who finished the play with a two-handed dunk. On the next possession, he posted up at the 3-point line, spun toward the baseline, and hit a fadeaway with a toe on the line. So to recap: Daequan Cook at 17 was better with three hours sleep, no stretching or warm-up, and probably hung-over than I could ever dream to be.3 What he is now: The greatest eighth-grade and post-prom player of my generation has been on four different teams in four seasons (which doesn't include the team that drafted him, the 76ers, which traded him on draft night). He is on a league-minimum contract with the Bulls, he hasn't sniffed the court in this year's playoffs, and he may be out of the NBA in the next few years. Worst of all, he's stuck on the bench for a team whose best player is currently Nate Robinson.

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