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Vol. LXIII, No. 3
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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(Photo courtesy of William Paterson University Sports Information)

PIONEER SPIRIT: Erin Cook heads up the floor in recent action for the William Paterson University women’s basketball team. Junior guard Cook, a former Princeton High star, has emerged as a standout for the Pioneers, averaging 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

After Rocky Start to College Basketball Career, PHS Alum Cook Is Starring at William Paterson

Bill Alden

As Erin Cook developed into a 1000-point scorer during her career with the Princeton High girls’ basketball team, she gained a self-assurance on the court.

“I loved playing at Princeton High,” said Cook. “I loved the girls there. I think one of the biggest things I got from that experience was gaining confidence and being a leader on the floor. I always tried to stay positive.”

But as Cook moved up to the college level after graduating from PHS in 1996, she lost that positive karma.

The 5’8 Cook started her college career at Francis Marion in South Carolina but it wasn’t a good fit and she transferred after her freshman year, returning to New Jersey and joining the program at William Paterson University, a Division III school.

While Cook was happy to be back in New Jersey, things didn’t go so well on the court as she was relegated to a reserve role due to illness and a nagging shin injury.

In preparing for her junior season at William Paterson, Cook tried to rekindle the positive frame of mind she exuded at PHS.

“I remembered how I was like that at Princeton and I wanted to be like that in college,” said Cook.

“I worked out with some girls I have played with over the years. I did a lot of individual stuff. I went up to school every Monday to work out. I wanted to get better individually so I could be better and be better able to help the team win.”

As one of the few returning players on the squad, Cook focused on making herself into a team leader.

“We lost a lot of girls; we had only five returners,” said Cook. “Since I am a junior and one of the five returners, I had to be a leader.”

Cook has thrived in her leading role, breaking into the starting lineup and becoming a key performer for the Pioneers.

Helping William Paterson to a 13-4 start with a 5-0 record in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play, Cook is averaging 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Although Cook is proud to have broken into the starting line-up, she is more focused on team success.

“I am excited about starting but it’s not the most important thing,” asserted Cook, who scored 16 points and had three rebounds last Saturday in William Paterson’s 91-40 rout of Rutgers-Camden.

“If that’s what the team needs, that’s fine. If I am coming off the bench and we are winning, that is fine too. We want to win a conference title.”

Cook has been focusing on helping her team out on the boards. “Every shot I take or every shot everyone else takes, I always go for the rebound,” said Cook, who has been getting some minutes at small forward as well as her natural guard position.

“Coach tells me I shoot too fast sometimes and that I should stay in my follow through a little longer.”

In order to become a success at the college level, Cook has been forced to diversify her game.

“I was the go-to player in high school,” said Cook, who has also excelled in the classroom at William Paterson, making the Dean’s List in fall, 2007 and spring, 2008.

“We didn’t run a lot of plays at Princeton, we just played. Coming into college, I have learned help defense, better positioning, and moving without the ball. I have learned how to be a team player.”

Cook is happy to be applying the lessons she has learned. “I am really surprised at how well this year is going,” said Cook. “The first two years of college were tough with injuries, sickness, and transferring.”

In Cook’s view, the Pioneers can be a tough team as they head down the stretch drive.

“I think we just communicate well with each other,” said Cook. “We have our team meetings. If issues come up on or off the court, we deal with them. I think we all have the same goal which is to win the NJAC. We are all pretty much on the same page. We know we have to be hungry.”

And Cook’s hunger to excel has helped her finally reach the goal of becoming a college basketball star.

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