I have tried to be the voice of reason, the seeming lone defender of Mike Cook and Levon Kendall in the past few weeks. While Levon Kendall is still only averaging 2.86 points since his 10 against Marquette, Mike Cook has finally bounced back and given me some ammunition against his detractors.
In yesterday’s win over non-conference Washington, Mike scored 15 points, his most since 18 in the win over Georgetown. In the time between those two games, he averaged 6.38 points. He scored 5 or fewer points 4 times, and over 10 only twice. It might not sound like the end of the world, but he is still our second leading scorer with 10.4 per contest. Before the slump, Mike was averaging nearly 12 points per game.
Its hard to say what those 5 extra points per game would have done recently. Of course, Louisville would still have beaten us, but some of those close games might not have been so worrisome. All I know is that what Cook was able to do yesterday, to (if only temporarily) silence his critics, most likely won us the game. He shot better than 50% and ended up with 15 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds, all on the offensive end. He had 2 assists and a steal, and only 1 turnover.
With the likelihood of Gray missing tomorrow’s game at Seton Hall, or at least playing significantly fewer minutes, there is a lot more pressure on the rest of the squad. My prediction is that Levon will get the majority of time at center, with Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs taking over the Power Forward. Of course, I am hopeful that Aaron is going to play, but consider that Seton Hall is going to be significantly easier than the other three games on our schedule. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Aaron in full strength against Georgetown than be still nursing the ankle in our biggest contest of the year.
What I really hope, however, is that Mike Cook believed what he said in his post game interview. Mike said that Jamie Dixon told him that he needed to have more fun on the court, and stop trying to force it. Cook added with a laugh, that it felt good “to finally make a shot.”
So all of you that enjoy being critical, don’t think that you are the only one. You might enjoy sitting there at your computer, trashing our struggling athletes. You might enjoy talking to your friends about the failures of our team, like you could do better. But remember, we are currently in first place in the conference. We have an opportunity to finish with a better Big East record than any other year in Pitt history. There is nobody more critical of these players than themselves. I sincerely doubt that Cook and Kendall felt that they were playing their best basketball out there. So instead of jumping on the bandwagon and jeering them, try to give them some support. It might just make a difference.