By (James Ogletree)

As Alabama padded its late lead over the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Feb. 15, seeking its first win ever in Knoxville, the team’s leading scorer sat on the bench.

For just the fourth time in her four years with the Crimson Tide, Hannah Cook had fouled out.

When a timeout was called with 30 seconds to go, though, she sprang to her feet, high-fived her teammates as they were coming off the floor, and made her way to the center of the huddle. She encouraged her teammates that if they kept playing together, they would make history.

A few minutes later, they did, closing out a moment Cook would call one of the proudest of her career. In the crowd, Cook’s mother, Darla Cook, shed tears of joy.

“I was like, ‘Mom, get it together!’” Hannah Cook said. “[Beating Tennessee] for the first time in Knoxville and making history? That’s incredible to be a part of, and the fact that my parents got to be there? Awesome.”

Alabama coach Kristy Curry has been floored with the sacrifices Darla and David Cook, Hannah’s father, have made to see their daughter play. They both work full-time and have a son still living at home, but still manage to attend most of Hannah Cook’s away games.

David Cook even took a part-time job at an airport during Hannah Cook’s sophomore and junior years of high school so they would be able to afford more flights. Their oldest son and Hannah’s older brother, Easton Cook, was later hired as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines, which allows their family to fly for free, anytime and anywhere.

The Cooks are a tight-knit family; David Cook says what makes him the proudest of Hannah is how family-oriented she is, and it means the world to him and Darla Cook that they can watch her play so much.

Hannah and Easton Cook, being the two closest in age out of Darla and David Cook’s four kids, fought like any siblings would. Easton Cook, who is 18 months older, would pick on Hannah and refuse to give her rides to school, driving their parents crazy fighting about other insignificant things.

Now, though, the two are best friends. They FaceTime at least once a week, sometimes more, ranging from 10 to 45 minutes. Hannah’s face lights up when she thinks of their favorite way to communicate.

“It’s almost like we have our own language,” she said. “We quote movies a lot. That is our thing … We are huge Disney people, we love Jim Carrey, we’re huge Marvel people … We are clowns.”

David and Darla Cook both loved to play basketball when they were younger, so it should not come as a surprise that Hannah was already shooting into a Playskool hoop at age two.

When they saw how much she was drawn to the game, they signed her up for an all-boys’ parks and rec league, and that’s when they knew their daughter might have a special talent.

“She basically took over,” David Cook said. “She dominated, and we saw it and we thought, ‘Well okay, let’s see where it goes.’”

The more competitive those early games were, Darla Cook said, the more Hannah Cook enjoyed them – probably due to a chip on her shoulder from playing with the boys.

Around sixth grade, Hannah Cook began attending basketball camps at Ozark High School, the city’s only high school. That was when she first caught the eye of Yancey Little.

Little, the current athletic director at Ozark, used to coach girls’ basketball at the school and has worked there for 17 years. He noticed Hannah’s passion for basketball and her competitive drive from the first time he watched her play.

It wasn’t until her freshman year at Ozark, though, that he and his staff realized just how exceptional of a player she could become.

He split his team into two – one team of seniors and juniors, one team of sophomores and freshmen – and a certain tall freshman led her team to an upset victory over the veterans.

“If I remember correctly, Hannah had 18 of the 24 [points] that her team scored,” Little said. “So we knew right there and then that she was going to be a player for us.”

Hannah became a star on the Ozark girls’ basketball team, and started to attract the attention of some Division I colleges like Missouri State, Creighton and Florida Gulf Coast during her junior year.

That summer, Curry was on a recruiting trip with assistant coach Shereka Wright, who convinced her to drive across town to watch a kid from Ozark, Missouri whom Wright was interested in offering a scholarship.

“I loved everything I saw about her ability to shoot the basketball,” Curry said. “She’s just a very respectful, Christian young lady who was raised in a great environment. [She’s] responsible, great character, just someone that you know is the kind of person you want in your program.”

The Cooks were flabbergasted to receive an offer from an SEC program. Having grown up Arkansas Razorbacks fans and living eight hours away from Tuscaloosa, no one was thrilled about the idea. But as time went on, Alabama stayed in the forefront of Hannah’s mind.

Her final three choices were Missouri State because of proximity, Florida Gulf Coast because of the beach, and Alabama. As she considered the pros and cons each school would offer, both during her schooling and after it, the choice became clear.

“Do I want to stay in Springfield [at Missouri State] or do I want to get out of my comfort zone and go see what opportunities there are at Alabama?” she said. “I prayed about it, and I think God led me to Alabama, and I believe it was the better route.”

Hannah Cook’s faith is a crucial part of her life. She often tweets out encouraging Bible verses; her favorite, Luke 1:37 [“For nothing will be impossible with God”], resides both in her Twitter bio and on her graduation cap.

She also wears two white wristbands on her left wrist that say “In Jesus Name I Play”. She …read more

Source:: The Crimson White Sports