He's not an established star but don’t be surprised if Dominique Cooks quickly becomes a key member of the Wollongong Hawks backcourt.
He will make his official NBL debut against the New Zealand Breakers tonight in Auckland.
A former Illawarra and NSW junior rep, the 24-year-old has longed to wear a Hawks singlet.
‘‘Being a kid from Wollongong and going through all the junior stuff, you always grow up wanting to play for the Hawks,’’ he said.
‘‘I was going to games since I was eight and I grew up idolising the [Mat] Campbells and the Savs [Glen Saville]. To actually get the chance to pull on the Hawks jersey, it’s a dream come true.’’
Cooks earned a degree while playing college basketball in the US for Chaminade University before he returned home earlier this year to secure a contract with the Hawks.
The 193cm-tall guard earned his stripes with a strong preseason.
‘‘It has been a grind at times in the preseason, but it pays off when stuff like this happens,’’ he said.
‘‘When you’re going through all the college stuff it seems to take a while, but now that it’s all over and I look back, it does seem like it flew by.
‘‘Being a rookie, there’s going to be some days that are tougher than others. The challenge is to overcome those and always try and keep a level head, and just try to enjoy the ride.’’
His signing was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle for Wollongong.
But the sudden departure of American swingman Durrell Summers last week leaves the club a player short of a full 10-man roster.
Cooks is the son of Hawks assistant coach Eric Cooks but any whispers of nepotism should be swiftly silenced by the son’s basketball abilities, not to mention his maturity and leadership.
‘‘We made the decision to go with a local guy, rather than bring in someone from outside, and he’s got an opportunity to play in the NBL and find his level,’’ Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod said.
‘‘His contribution so far has been very good. He’s a good student of the game. He works hard on areas he needs to improve on and he’s been a strong contributor to the group in the preseason.’’
Cooks is a strong defender and has already established himself as one of his team’s best on-court talkers.
‘‘Changing from college to the professional stuff is a lot different, and playing against grown men who’ve been doing this for a long time, it forces you to develop a lot quicker because it throws you in the deep end,’’ he said.