From hoops to helping: 'Cookie Monster' enjoys working with kids

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   When I interviewed close to 80 former UC players and coaches for "Tales from Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball," which came out in 2004, I couldn't help but include Cheryl Cook, even though the book was all about the men's program.

   Cook remains the greatest women's basketball player in school history, and I have memories of watching her play - and more than hold her own - with all guys in Laurence Hall pick-up games.

   A funny story that emerged for the book was about Luther Tiggs, who played for the UC men's team and broke a finger and missed two games because of Cook.

     "She was the best women's player I ever saw," Tiggs told me. "She was extremely competitive. She always wanted to play with the guys. They called her a few names, but nobody gave her an out. That's what she wanted.

     "One day, she wanted to play one-on-one at a side basket. She had the ball and she made a move toward the baseline and my hand went across the body because I wanted to strip her of the ball. I pulled it back. When I looked up, my index finger was completely severed. I ran to the trainer, and my finger was just hanging there. They had to stitch it up. The guys were really on me about that."

   When we talked about that story several years ago, Cook said: "It wasn't intentional. Now that you brought it up, I still feel bad about it."

   We mention all this because Cook was announced as a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2010 on Monday.

   Already her retired No. 24 jersey hangs on the wall in Fifth Third Arena and she is a member of UC's Athletic Hall of Fame.

   She is the Bearcats' all-time leading women's scorer (2,367 points) and went to win a gold medal with the U.S. team in the 1983 Pan American Games and a silver medal with the U.S. team in the 1985 World University Games. She played six years in Spain and Italy and even had a tryout with the Harlem Globetrotters.

   "It's been a great journey," she said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world."

   Cook now lives in Bedford Heights, Ohio, and is administrator at the Department of Youth Services in Cleveland. She also coaches the organization's basketball team (ages 16-21) and says she has won three straight state championships.

   "I enjoy working with kids and I wanted to be able to give something back," she said.

   She'd like to give back to women's basketball and UC, too, by joining its broadcast "team."

   That would be Tom Gelehrter, manager of new media and broadcasting at UC who does live play-by-play for the Bearcat women's games for CATSVision All-Access on Cook and Gelehrter met in Cincinnati in November.

      "There's a definite opportunity for her to join me on the broadcast," Gelehrter said. "She indicated to me she'd be down for games. The door is wide open. I do all the women's games by myself. I'll have a head set for her. It's as easy as that for me. To have someone of Cheryl Cook's stature on the broadcast would be great."

   As a senior in 1984-85, Cook was the nation's No. 2 scorer (27.5 ppg) and was named second-team All-America.  Known as the "Cookie Monster," she was twice Metro Conference Player of the Year and sometimes practiced with the UC men's team.

   "I am always a Bearcat at heart," she said. "Color analyst for UC women's basketball - that's the ultimate job. I would love to continue to try to get the women as much exposure as they deserve.

   "I would love to be a part of something special that they have going. If people will be patient with (Coach Jamelle Elliott), she's going to make UC people and the community proud."

   Cook grew up playing against six brothers and was a star at Indianapolis Washington High School. She averaged 29.7 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as a senior in 1981 and was named Indiana's Miss Basketball.

   Her official induction to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame will be April 24 in Indianapolis.

   "I'm humbled," she said. "I take a lot of people in with me, so I don't just go alone - family, faculty at my high school, coaches at UC, my teammates at UC, my teammates in high school. Everybody had something to do with this."


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