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Lenny Cooke Enters NBA Draft

June 25, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Lenny Cooke, one of four high school players attempting to make a leap to the pros, hopes that Wednesday night’s NBA Draft can help clarify his future after an ambiguous past.

The Brooklyn native is currently attempting to earn his high school diploma from the Mott Adult School in Flint, Michigan _ his fifth different school in five years.

Cooke, 20, lost his playing eligibility upon turning 19 in April 2001 when he was attending Old Tappan High School in New Jersey. He has played in only eight games over the past two years, creating a hazy view of his talent in the eyes of scouts and coaches.

Cooke planned on using an NBA pre-draft camp earlier this month in Chicago to increase his stock. He injured his big toe, however, limiting him to one game in which he scored six points in 16 minutes.

As an unknown commodity, he is now perceived as a middle-to-late second round pick with the possibility of not being drafted at all.

``All I need is one foot in the door. I’ll take care of the rest. That’s all that matters to me,″ Cooke said. ``When I wasn’t playing in school, I was still staying in shape by playing against college teams. I’m willing to bring hard work and dedication to a team.″

The 6-foot-6, 210 pound shooting guard’s strengths include his ability to slash to the basket and finish. He has drawn comparisons to Jerry Stackhouse of the Detroit Pistons, although his perimeter shooting needs work.

``I can play a lot of different roles like Kobe (Bryant) or (Tracy) McGrady can. I can get my team involved all the time.″

Cooke began his high school career at Franklin K. Lane (N.Y.) and proceeded to fail out his first year. Debbie Bortner, an affluent mother of a teammate of Cooke’s, then entered his life and helped Cooke transfer to LaSalle Academy, where he hit his stride as a player, leading the varsity deep into the city playoffs.

His grades improved initially, but eventually gave way to a continuous string of missed school days. Later that year, as a sophomore, Cooke bounced over to Northern Valley Demarest High School (N.J.) only to end up at Northern Valley Old Tappan High (N.J.) a year later.

During his time with the Bortners, Cooke became tiresome of the quiet suburbs and frequently visited his old Brooklyn stomping grounds. Through his uncle, Cooke met former DePaul guard Terence Greene, who at the time was an assistant coach at the Michigan.

Cooke promptly left Bortner and New Jersey and is currently working toward his diploma under Greene’s guidance.

Recently, Cooke has received advice from Stephon Marbury and Kobe Bryant.

``Stephon told me that most of basketball is mental to be successful. Kobe told me that it’s a business and to go at everybody no matter who it is,″ Cooke said.

Last year, six high school players declared for the NBA draft and four _ Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and DeSagana Diop _ were taken among the first eight picks.

This year, Cooke is joined by high school players Amare Stoudemire, a 6-10 power forward from Cypress Creek H.S. in Orlando, DeAngelo Collins, a 6-10 power forward/center from Inglewood (Calif) H.S.; and Giedrius Rinkevicius, a 7-2 center from Bridgton Academy in Maine.

Cooke acknowledges the likelihood of going middle to late in the second round, and he said he will not watch Wednesday’s telecast.

``It’s bad luck to watch it. Someone will call me and tell me what happened,″ he said. ``I’m nervous. A lot of people didn’t get to see me play. I’m trying to keep my mind focused and not to think about it that much. I pray every night that I get drafted,″ Cooke said.

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