Dante Exum, Ben Simmons and even Jonah Bolden are second generation Australian basketballers who are now making an impact in the US, but another second generation basketballer is doing the same under much less spotlight, 18 year old Xavier Cooks.
The talented 6’8′ swingman had a number of schools courting him which included Santa Barbara, Boise State, UMaine, Hartford, and Nicholls State before deciding to sign with Winthorp University.
Xavier’s father Eric was a stand-out player for St. Mary’s University in the US before coming to Australia to play for the SEABL team, the Ballarat Miners. Eric Cooks won multiple titles in the SEABL (Australia’s second-tier basketball league) and after a number of years became a naturalised Australian. Immediately after the NBL’s Wollongong Hawks signed him to play in the NBL where he was now able to do so as an Australia where he played 4 seasons in the NBL.
Eric Cooks, who has remained a part of the Wollongong Hawks since retiring as a player, as a head coach of the Hawks for two seasons before current head coach Gordie Mcleod took over in 2009, however he has remained an assistant coach ever since.
Now in the same way as Dante Exum and Ben Simmons have developed their first under their father’s tutelage before attending the Australian Institute of Sport before heading to the United States to make a name for themselves, so too has Xavier.
“We are excited to welcome Xavier to the Winthrop community,” said Winthrop head coach Pat Kelsey, who is set to begin his third season at the Eagles’ helm this year. “His father (Eric) played in college, professionally and is now a coach. A basketball was in his crib from day one and his basketball IQ reflects that. More importantly to me than coming from a basketball family, however, is that he comes from a supportive, loving family. They have raised a fine young man that I will be proud to coach.”
This year the AIS compete in the SEABL competition, the same competition Xavier’s father Eric built a name for himself in Australia, and he is averaging 13.9 points while shooting an impressive 54.3 percent from the field.
“Xavier Cooks gives us some depth. He’s a different player than James, who is a wide-body, but he gives us position flexibility because Xavier can play so many different positions,” said Kelsey. “He’s just that versatile hybrid forward.”
Cooks is the youngest son in a family of ball players. Besides his father Eric the Cooks family also boasts his brother, Dominique Cooks, who recently completed a successful college career at Division II powerhouse Chaminade University.
Cooks will be the third player from the oceania region to play basketball for Winthrop. The other two include former stand out Craig Bradshaw from New Zealand who was a member of the New Zealand Olympic Team and helped lead Winthrop to three straight Big South Conference championships (2005-07) and the other player was Aussie product Shola Diop.