The Saluki Basketball Team is scorching the earth with a five-game win streak currently. The Dawgs are currently ranked 62nd in the NET rankings – which means if the season ended today they’d be in the NCAAs for the first since 2008.
Matt Varney sat down with Aaron Cook on Tuesday to talk about the season as whole so far. Cook has been leading the charge for the Salukis averaging 12.4 ppg in 10 games. Only Armon Fletcher ranks above him – at 13.5 ppg – but he’s only played six games this season and is suspended indefinitely. During this five game win streak, Cook has averaged 12.8 ppg, being one of the most consistent scoring option SIU has.
“It’s important to me but it’s really not a focal point of the team,” Cook says about his scoring and consistency. “It’s more so about the team winning. It doesn’t matter if I score zero points or I score 25 points.”
That team mentality shines through as Cook has developed into one of the Salukis’ best passers. Through 10 games, he’s averaged 3.7 assists; only Marcus Bartley tops Cook in dishes by the slimmest of margins at 3.8 assists per game.
Several things contribute to the team’s hot start but one of the main reasons, Cook says, is because of the return of Thik Bol.
“Thik is irreplaceable,” Cook explains. “Him altering shots at the rim and blocking shots, it’s hard for other teams and it frustrates other teams when he’s down there.”
Cook also looks back on SIU’s trip to Cuba this summer as something the Dawgs have leaned on the first leg of the season.
“It was something we needed, especially the physicality,” Cook reminisces. “That team was very very aggressive and very physical with us – and we weren’t ready for that. Now, it doesn’t really phase us during the season because we can always go back to Cuba and say ‘It was way worse in Cuba when they were hacking us.'”
The Dawgs now begin to look towards Missouri Valley play but not before three more games – two of which are the toughest tests of the non-conference schedule: Murray State – who houses a potential lottery pick in Ja Morant – and a rematch against #14 Buffalo on the road.
“He’s going to be aggressive, he feels he has to show what he can do to the NBA scouts,” Cook says of Morant. “For us, same gameplan… we have to stop not just him, but the entire team [of Murray State].”
As for what’s changed between the Salukis and #14 Bulls in Saturday’s rematch?
“We’re more confident,” Cook says. “Last time we played, we weren’t ready to play. We came out sluggish and they came out ready to go.”
Cook and the Salukis take on the Murray State Racers on Wednesday evening. Hear the broadcast on 101.5 CIL-FM, pregame with Mike Reis begins at 6pm.
Hear the entire interview here