Entering Saturday's non region matchup between Glenn Hills and Aquinas, I was eager to see two players I know a good bit about but have never really watched play basketball for a whole game. Glenn Hills' Ziaire Cook (senior) and Aquinas' San Antonio Brinson (junior) share the distinction of being very young for their classes. It has been documented in books like "Outliers" that athletes who are at the older end of the spectrum in their respective grades make up a disproportionate amount of those who end up at the elite level. This is why so many children and parents decide to hold back a year (I did) to get more physically and mentally mature before entering high school. So Cook and Brinson's setting themselves apart from most of their peers is an exceptional feat.
Even more appealing to me is their performances in the classroom. A college basketball coach with knowledge of Cook's standardized test score told me his is the highest he's ever seen from a prospective college basketball player. And my friend Matt Scott, a reliable source for all things Aquinas, bragged to me about San Antonio's 3.5 GPA. After learning more about their abilities on the court and in the classroom, I'll be circling the dates on the calendar for as many Glenn Hills and Aquinas games as I can.
Saturday's matchup featured Brinson at his best, as he scored 23 points in the first half and helped his Fighting Irish stay within a point of the Spartans at halftime, trailing 31-30. The 6'6" junior scored in every imaginable way. I have seen him enough to know he possesses a soft shooting touch. In addition to drilling jump shots Saturday, he dunked in traffic, completed three point plays after offensive rebounds, scored in the open court, and handled the ball and created offense against Glenn Hills' 94 feet of pressure defense. But the Spartans' second half defensive attack slowed Brinson, and he was only able to score one basket after intermission.
While Glenn Hills found its rhythm defensively, holding Aquinas to 17 second half points, Ziaire Cook was consistent throughout the game, scoring 10 points in each half for a team high total of 20. I asked Will Avery about Cook before the game. One thing he said was that he is deceptively athletic, that the 6'3" guard will almost casually dunk the ball when he doesn't appear to have that kind of bounce. After watching him I have a better feel for what Will means. Like many good players, he makes the game look easy. He shoots and handles the ball well, and he uses these skills to get where he wants on the court offensively. He makes shots that college players make, like floaters and left handed finishes. Cook is averaging 23 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Glenn Hills (5-1) hosts another one loss team, Laney (6-1), Tuesday in both teams' first region contest. Aquinas (4-2) visits Greenbrier Friday.