Surprise and delight at call up

By Otago Daily Times | Posted: Sunday November 19, 2017

Joe Cook-Green could not believe it when he was named in the Tall Blacks latest squad although everyone else could.

Indeed it seems everyone else knew before the former Otago player as well.

The 20-year-old — who is in the United States on a basketball scholarship at Eastern Arizona College — found out the news through Facebook.

"I was getting all these texts saying congrats and stuff and I had no idea what they were congratulating me about until someone sent me the link," he said.

"I’m definitely excited. You know, being picked with all them other point guards who are in that group, it was pretty surprising."

The 23-man squad was named ahead of the World Cup qualifying game against South Korea.

He was named named alongside other point guards Tai Webster, Shea Ili, Jarrod Kenny and Derone Raukawa.

Fellow former Otago swingman Luke Aston, who plays for the Southland Sharks, was also named.

Aston had played in the Asia Cup campaign earlier this year, but for Cook-Green it was his first time in a Tall Blacks squad.

One of the most promising guards to come out of New Zealand in recent times, Cook-Green brings aggression and strength, while also possessing a good mid-range game.

After playing for the Otago Nuggets as a year 12 pupil at Otago Boys’ High School, he impressed for the Canterbury Rams the following year.

He spent last season at one of the best junior college’s in the US — Northwest Florida State — a programme which regularly saw its players transfer to high-level division one schools.

Indeed, the other two point guards on the roster now played for LSU — where stars Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Simmons went — and the Dominican Republic national team respectively.

Reaching that division one level was still his goal too.However, he decided a switch in school may help him get more game time and the chance to show what he can do.

He had improved a lot, with the athleticism of the American game being the key difference.

"My game’s developed — speed, everything — just the way I look at plays.

"They play a different style, just more pace than we play back home.

"In New Zealand it’s way more physical. It’s still physical over here, but I think it’s more about pace and athleticism.

"It was more about adjusting to the athleticism last year than anything, to be honest."

That adjustment had been difficult, as he was coming back from a torn achilles, which he described as a major setback.

It was feeling better now and while it still hurt at times and he did not jump off that leg so much, he would not use it as an excuse.

Playing for the Tall Blacks remains an ultimate goal and while he was in Christchurch over last off-season his loyalties remained blue and gold.

"I love Otago — it’s home.

"If the Nuggets ever make it back I’d put my hand up for that straight away."

Thank you to the ODT for the use of this article