Former St. Jerome & DeMatha players star for NBA playoff teams

Former DeMatha stars Victor Oladipo (23) and Quinn Cook (2) compete against Don Bosco Cristo Rey in a 2009 game, one of the last in DeMatha's old gym. Oladipo is now an All-Star with the Indiana Pacers. Cook plays for the Golden State Warriors. The pair also played together at St. Jerome for two seasons (2004-06). Photo courtesy of Ed King

By CHRIS McMANES — Family and friends encouraged Quinn Cook to give up on his NBA dream. They recommended that he continue his professional career overseas.

He didn’t, and now he finds himself in the NBA Playoffs playing for the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champions.

The Warriors won their first playoff game, 113-92, over the San Antonio Spurs. They will try to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series tonight. TNT will televise the game at 10:30 p.m.

Cook is fortunate he didn’t give up on playing in the NBA. By signing a multiyear contract with Golden State on April 10, he became eligible to participate in the postseason.

“It’s a dream come true for me to be on a playoff team, to finally play in the playoffs,” Cook said. “I’ve been watching this my whole life.”

DeMatha grad Victor Oladipo was named Sporting News Player of the Year at Indiana University in 2013 and now plays for the Indiana Pacers. He and fellow NBA player Quinn Cook were teammates at DeMatha and St. Jerome. Oladipo is shown here as a senior soaring in to score at St. John’s. Photo courtesy of Ed King

Cook is one of four former DeMatha High School players eyeing a World Championship. He is joined by Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Jerami Grant (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers). The teams went a combined 4-0 over the weekend.

Oladipo and Cook go back even further than their days at DeMatha. Cook attended school at St. Jerome for sixth through eighth grade from 2004-07. Oladipo was there with his twin sister, Victoria, from 1997 to 2006.

Dick Brown coached the pair prior to his death in 2006. Joe Sego assisted Brown his final season and succeeded him the following year.

Oladipo is in his first season with the Pacers. His playoff-career-high 32 points Sunday led Indiana to a 98-80 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 2018 NBA All-Star shot 11-for-19 from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. He added six rebounds, four assists and four steals.

Jeff Green, who played at Northwestern High School, started for the Cavaliers and struggled like most of his teammates. He was held scoreless in 27 minutes. Teammate LeBron James had a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. But it was Oladipo who keyed the upset of the reigning Eastern Conference champions.

Mark Jackson, an ABC color analyst and former NBA player and coach, praised the Upper Marlboro resident’s performance on air. “He’s the best player on the floor. Oladipo’s putting on a clinic.”

Indiana plays Game Two of its best-of-seven series Wednesday night at Cleveland. TNT will broadcast the game beginning at 7 p.m.   

Cooking in California

Then-junior Quinn Cook drives past a Bishop O’Connell player in a game DeMatha hosted in March 2010. Cook played three years at St. Jerome and three years with the Stags. After dominating in the NBA’s minor-league circuit, the G League, he’s now in the NBA Playoffs with Golden State. Photo courtesy of Ed King

Prior to signing his new contract April 10, Cook was a two-way player for Golden State, meaning he could play up to 45 games for the Warriors and the rest for Golden State’s NBA G League team, the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Warriors. The “G” in “G League” stands for its title sponsor, Gatorade. Prior to that, it was known as the NBA D (Development) League.

Cook and Oladipo are the first two former St. Jerome students to play in the NBA. Sego said he is not surprised that Cook is now counted among the finest basketball players in the world.

“His workouts are the most intense I’ve ever seen, and he’s always been that way,” said Sego, who has guided the Jaguars’ top team to three city championships. “If he missed foul shots in one of our games, he would punish himself by going home and shooting 500 free throws in his backyard.  

“His work ethic is remarkable.”

Cook attended DeMatha through his junior year (2009-10) before finishing at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. A heavily recruited 2011 McDonald’s All-American, he chose to attend Duke University in Durham, N.C. As a senior captain in 2014-15, he averaged 16 points and helped lead the Blue Devils to the national championship.

Despite his collegiate success, Cook went undrafted and was cut by several NBA teams. He signed with the G League’s Canton (Ohio) Charge, where he was named 2016 league Rookie of the Year and 2017 All-Star game MVP. The Atlanta Hawks cut him just before the start of the current season. It was through his friendship with Warriors’ All-Star forward Kevin Durant that he latched on with the Golden State organization. He averaged 24.7 points with Santa Cruz.

Cook’s big break came when all-world point guard Stephen Curry was sidelined in March with an ankle injury. In his first game, Cook scored 25 points on 10 of 13 shooting and five 3-pointers against the Sacramento Kings. He matched his 3-point performance the following day vs. the Phoenix Suns en route to 28 points. In four games from March 14-19, he averaged 21.5 points and 3.2 assists.

On March 29, the 6-foot-2-inch, 179-pound Cook poured in a career-high 30 points against the Milwaukee Bucks. All five of his shots beyond the arc were good. He started 17 games for Golden State but was not in the starting lineup Saturday. In 25 minutes of action, he finished with five points, two assists and four rebounds.

Despite now playing with the big boys, Cook remains humble. The Bowie resident said he didn’t mind shuttling back and forth between Golden State’s parent and minor league clubs.

“It’s been fun, honestly,” Cook said. “You never know where you’re going to be day by day, week by week. But you’ve got to stay ready. When I’m down in Santa Cruz, I try to prepare myself to play 30 minutes up here [with the Warriors]. When I’m up here, I just try to be the best teammate, a leader on the floor and just stay solid.”

Oladipo seems to just be scratching the surface of his prodigious talent.

“I don’t think anyone suspected Victor would grow to become an elite NBA player,” Sego said. “But he has always had that special combination of freakish athleticism and the work ethic of a perfectionist. 

“When those two traits come together, you’ve got something special.”

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha basketball for the Hyattsville Life & Times. All the quotations, except for Joe Sego’s, were taken from postgame press conferences.

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