North Carolina star commits to Nevada |

North Carolina star commits to Nevada

Appeal Sports Writer

Malik Cooke, a 6-5 190-pound wing forward from Christ School in Arden, N.C., has given University of Nevada basketball coach Mark Fox a verbal commitment to play for the Wolf Pack starting next fall.

Cooke averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds for Christ School last year. He was an all-league and all-state selection, and helped lead the team to a state title in the 2004-05 season when he was a sophomore.

Under NCAA rules, Fox isn’t allowed to comment on prospective student-athletes.

Cooke, whose family lives in Charlotte, N.C., said he made his decision after visiting Nevada the weekend of the Northwestern football game. Fox and first-year assistant coach Kwanza Johnson made a home visit in the last month. The duo had been recruiting him hard over the summer.

“I feel very good (about the decision),” said Cooke, who tailgated with the current players and the coaching staff prior to the game, during a phone interview Wednesday. “It was a great atmosphere and all the players were very nice. It was like a family atmosphere. It felt like home. I’ll be getting to play against some of the best competition in the United States.”

Cooke said he hadn’t seen a lot of Nevada games, but that the coaches showed him a highlight tape when he came on his recruiting visit and on his home visit.

The North Carolina prep star, who was recruited by Lipscomb, UNC-Asheville, Marshall and Richmond, brings a slashing type offensive game to the Pack.

“With the wingspan he has (7-feet), I don’t want him just sitting outside,” Christ School coach David Gaines said. “He’s not a pure outside shooter. He’s an exciting offensive player. From 20 feet, he can take two dribbles and get all the way to the rim.”

The aforementioned wingspan makes him a dangerous defender on the wing. It gives him the ability to overplay passes, and teams will have to be wary of that.

“I like to get into the passing lane, and with my wingspan, I get my hands on a lot of balls and get steals,” said the 16-year-old Cooke.

“He’ll bait guys into making passes, and then he’ll get a steal because of his length,” Gaines said.

That should be music to Fox’s ears. He loves guys that like to play defense, and Cooke already knows that good defense will get him on the floor when he comes to Nevada.

Gaines said that Cooke has a tremendous upside.

“Last year he was the team leader and in a lot of areas our best player,” Gaines said. “He’s a young senior. He won’t turn 17 until next fall. As he gets older, he’ll have to carry a little more weight. I think he can easily gain 15 more pounds. He has very little body fat. We have a very experienced strength coach here.”

Gaines said he was impressed with Fox and Johnson during the visit to North Carolina.

“The most impressive thing is that when he sat down and talked to us, the first 30 minutes was about academics, telling him the type of classes he would be taking” Gaines said. “After that, he started talking about the success the program had been having.”

Gaines said that Cooke shouldn’t have any problem going cross country to attend college. Cooke attends Christ School, which is a boys boarding school 12 hours from home.