Walker’s Jalen Cook was convinced his school’s best girls basketball player, Tiara Young, would win a top Louisiana top honor. It became a sweep for the Wildcats on Friday.
Cook was chosen as the Gatorade Louisiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year after leading his team to a 29-10 record and a Class 5A runner-up finish, according to a news release. Young, an LSU signee, won the girls Gatorade award last week.
“I was ecstatic. … my heart actually dropped a little because I wasn’t expecting it,” Cook said. “I’ve seen other players win it before. This is a huge accomplishment and a blessing. I put a lot of time in with my dad, my coaches and my teammates working to improve. I have great teammates who are a big part of this.”
Cook, a 6-foot, 185-pound junior guard, averaged 29.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game while leading the Wildcats to the 5A championship game for the second straight year.
Young and Cook become the first Baton Rouge area athletes to sweep the Gatorade awards for one school in the same year.
A three-time first team all-district selection, Cook also was this year’s Louisiana High School Basketball Coaches Association’s state MVP. He concluded his junior year with 2,293 points. T
The Gatorade award recognizes athletic excellence, high academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
"Jalen ... he's a special player and he's also a complete player," Walker coach Anthony Schiro said. "He has that ‘it’ factor. He knows what the team needs at a particular time in a game. We might need a basket or a defensive stop, and he'll step in to provide that.
"He took on the leadership role this year, following the example some older guys set for him. He's very unselfish and loves the game. There are days when Jalen stays after practice to work or he'll come in to work out after games. He deserves all the attention and awards he gets because he does work so hard."
“Jalen Cook is virtually unstoppable,” Catholic High coach Mark Cascio added. “He hits tough, contested shots in crunch time. I think he shoots, drive and handles the ball at a level that’s unmatched right now (in this state).”
Cook volunteers locally for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, and has donated his time to multiple community service initiatives through his church. Cook also maintains a 3.35 grade-point average in the classroom.
Winning the state award makes Cook eligible to win the Gatorade national award to be announced later this month. The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and all 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport.
Past Gatorade Louisiana Boys Basketball Players of the Year include LSU’s Ja'Vonte Smart (2017-18, 2016-17 & 2015-16, Scotlandville), and the late Wayde Sims (2014-15, University High Lab), a former LSU player.
As a part of Gatorade’s cause marketing platform “Play it Forward,” Cook also has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing.