Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

Baumgartner Vaughan column: Quinn Cook’s sweat equity to pay off?

Former Duke guard Quinn Cook shoots over former N.C. State guard Cat Barber on March 16.
Former Duke guard Quinn Cook shoots over former N.C. State guard Cat Barber on March 16.

Every time our sports editor comes into the newsroom, there’s a good chance he’ll get a question or comment from me about Quinn Cook’s basketball career. Longtime readers will recall how my kid became a Duke University basketball fan after that 2015 national championship season. It wasn’t for bandwagon reasons — he tried to be a Hokies fan like his parents, but kids are inclined to pick a team close to home, and he didn’t know anything of Duke basketball’s reputation.

It was because we had a chance to go to a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the fall of 2014 and the nice folks sitting next to us gave him a small poster of the team, including the roster. My son, now 8, noticed that a player had the same first name as his friend Quinn. And so that’s what led to the Duke poster on his wall, and the Duke flag, Duke basketball hoop, Duke blanket, Duke — you get the idea. And that’s why we watch the new team every season, and see players come and go under the one-and-done scenario for some, and appreciate the longevity of others, like Amile Jefferson.

And that’s why I ask our sports editor and Duke beat writer Steve Wiseman about Cook and his NBA prospects.

Duke fans follow the players, whether they are there through graduation, like Cook, or move on to the NBA after freshman year, like Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum et al. Players come and go and help each other, like Cook’s mentor Nolan Smith, who was on the 2010 Duke national championship team and is now a special assistant coach for Duke men’s basketball. Sometimes you’re in a uniform and sometimes you’re in a suit, but both require sweat equity.

Well, as you might know, Cook is now with the New Orleans Pelicans, for possibly a short time, but he’s working to get on more solid, stronger NBA footing. As Wiseman wrote in his in-depth look at Cook’s perseverance, Cook has been putting in the work. From the outside, sports fame — or, on my arts and entertainment beat, fame on stage — might look glorious and easy, but it’s not. It takes work. I’ve interview a lot of famous people who know that beyond getting a so-called “break,” you do the work.

I was at N.C. Central University this past week, sitting in on a hip-hop history class taught by Grammy-winning hip-hop record producer 9th Wonder for a story I’m working on. He had some sage comments about what he is teaching students, not just about the hip-hop industry, but life:

“If you don’t get up and do things on [your] own, as far as going out to get it — nobody’s pushing you to get it but yourself — then it’s not going to happen no matter what dream you have...,” said 9th Wonder, whose given name is Patrick Douthit.

Now, there are some people out there that have what they have because it was handed to them or they got it through means other than actual work. But that’s not the majority, and you and I know that work is what makes it worthwhile. There’s a feeling of satisfaction at the end of a task. When I was a teenager and my parents made me mow the lawn, I grumbled while I was doing it, but was glad I did.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

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