WARRIOR – It doesn’t take long for Adalia McKenzie to learn what chef makira is all about.
In one summer scenario, McKenzie — one of the few top returning players on the Illinois women’s basketball team — referred to Cook as a “baby.” The response from Cook, a Dayton transfer, is not one to your face. Cook responded in a different way: with buckets. Their waves. This one after the other. Actual problem.
“She went crazy,” McKenzie said Wednesday. “Oh my god. I’ll never do that again. I just see a different side of her. I love that killer mentality she has.
In that scenario, Cook was a newcomer to the Illinois scene and only later Green Shauna left his job as Dayton head coach to rebuild the Illini program. Cook, a junior guard, quickly follows to jump into the Big Ten to follow the coach with whom she has built a strong relationship.
There was never any doubt Cook would do anything but follow Green to Champaign.
Cook told the Illini Inquirer: “I’m not afraid of change and I like to challenge myself. “I knew it was going to be a challenge, even if I was used to the coaches. I was like, ‘Let’s do this. I want to be surrounded by love.’”
Cook’s transition to a power year conference was seamless, but that was well known over the summer. Now, the rest of the Big Ten and the entire college basketball scene in general are learning live.
Illinois (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) is ranked in the Top 25 of the Associated Press and is currently the show that received the most votes outside the chart, it is above 0.500 in the Big Ten for the first time since 2017 and has the best 15 starts in show history with a 13-2 record.
Cook has been an integral part of the show’s revival. She is leading Illini with 18.2 points per game, second on the team with 52 assists and averaging 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 46.9% and 42.6% respectively. when throwing 3 points.
Cook is fifth in the Big Ten in terms of scores and 42nd nationally. She’s scored double figures in 12 of 13 games this season, with the only one not reaching doubles being a win over Charleston. She has seven games scoring 20 or more points and is on a six-game streak scoring at least 20 points. Cook scored a season-high of 33 in a narrow loss in then 5th-place Indiana.
Green told the Illini Inquirer: “When she was in Dayton, I knew she could play anywhere in the country. “I have said that many times already. I think she’s on this big stage now and she has to play against these big teams more than we have to play against a team of this caliber at Dayton. She is thriving in the moment.
While Cook knows there will be challenges playing in the Big Ten, she has never doubted her ability to produce at this level.
“A lot of my confidence comes from within,” says Cook. “My family has always put their trust in me and Coach Green, she does nothing but raise us. I would never say that she brought us to tears. Shouting is constructive and makes us better. It screams to give us more confidence. It’s all-around confidence, and I’m grateful for that.”
As the Illini gain more national attention – they had a one-minute spot on ESPN’s SportsCenter last week after beating No. 12 Iowa and the All-American keeper Caitlin Clark — Cook continues to be one of the show’s rising faces along with teammates McKenzie, Genesis Bryant and Kendall Bostic.
“That means a lot to me, and I think that’s another reason why I believe in this whole process and trust Coach Green so much,” Cook said. “She is very loyal to her players. I’ve been playing for her for three years now. When it was my first year, I saw her loyalty to everyone, except those who had been with her since the beginning. I just know that my time has come and it will be now.”
Make no mistake, though, she’s in Champaign because of Green and the coaching staff.
Relationships mean deeply to Cook, and she formed a strong bond with Green while at Dayton. Cook was originally committed to Miami (Ohio) but stopped working after the former Miami head coach Megan Duffey left to take a job at Marquette. As soon as Cook returned to the market as a recruit, the floodgates opened and Green and Co. make sure they don’t simply step on water.
The then Dayton coaches had been sidelined in all of Cook’s AAU games, and Green made sure to participate in that one in person. A relationship was forming, one that eventually led Cook to commit to Dayton during her official visit – she doesn’t remember exactly who was on the team other than Dayton but only to West Virginia, Cincinnati and the State of Michigan – and starting a path with Green led her from Dayton to Champaign-Urbana.
Cook takes the opportunity to look for new challenges. She scored 20 points in Sunday’s upset win over No. 12 Iowa. She was the main reason Illinois pushed Indiana to the brink at a teen game in Bloomington last month. Cook knows these challenges are coming. She hugged them. For all the changes a new team and conference brings, the relationship with the coaching staff provides the stability she longs for as a player.
“Just the challenges that come to mind when you think of the Big Ten,” Cook said. “Every game is a big game. You will be competing against the best of the best. We actually have three games this week and they are all very high quality games. You always have to be focused and prepared.”
Illinois hasn’t had an All-Big Ten selection for the first team since Karisma Penn in 2013 as a media poll. it’s been since Jenna Smith in 2010, Illinois had an All-Big Ten pick for the first team by both coaches and the media. Although there are still many seasons to go, Cook is on the verge of joining those conversations.
Cook’s loyalty to Green paid off for both sides. Green got a star in her first year of accelerated program rebuilding, and Cook is proving she can be a star in one of the school’s top girls’ basketball conventions. University.
“When you recruit and have a relationship there, Makira is a special kid because of her loyalty,” Green said. “When she trusts you, she trusts you and she is loyal to you and she will do anything for you. We had a very good relationship in recruiting her and obviously coaching her for two years.
“She said, ‘Wherever you go, coach, I’ll go.’ It is mutual trust. Even her freshman year when she didn’t start and play that much, she told me, she said to her mother, ‘Hey, we have to trust Coach Green. I believe in the process and I believe in what she’s doing.’ You don’t find that very much anymore. You just don’t. She is that loyal.”
Green knows Cook as well as anyone. During the pre-match gunfight against Iowa on Sunday, Green asked Cook if she was excited about the upcoming game, in front of a larger-than-usual crowd and against one of the team’s top stars. college basketball: Caitlin Clark.
Cook was brilliantly ready and delivered the same way on both sides of the ball. Illinois has a star at the center of the show’s revival.
The same achievement that Cook showed at Dayton and the same competitiveness she showed in summer practice with her new team is showing at an ever-evolving stage. McKenzie wasn’t angry or surprised by Cook’s scoring boom in that summer’s scenario. Consider the set tone. Several months later was built from that point.
“It makes me feel like I’m not alone,” says McKenzie. “Everybody wants to embrace that. The fact that she wanted to help change a program motivated me and the rest of the team.”