Roane State grad pursuing dream to play pro basketball

By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer

This Roane State graduate isn’t giving up on his dream of playing professional basketball.

In fact, Knoxville native Chris Cook has moved to the outskirts of Los Angeles and continues to hone his basketball skills while also laying the groundwork for a podcast he’s titled “BEGREAT Inspiration.” Interviews with self-made people from all walks of life will be featured, he said.

His own existence remains a work in progress, Cook said. “I’m working on every little aspect of my life. I want to be the greatest me.”

Cook, who stands 6’-7” tall, played basketball all four years at West High School in Knoxville. Roane State Athletic director Randy Nesbit, who is the community college’s men’s basketball coach, watched Cook in action and recruited him.

He was red-shirted and spent three years at Roane State, playing for two seasons for the Roane State Raiders. The college had a profound impact on his life, Cook said. “I fell in love with Roane State, the community and the people,” he said. “Roane State was one of the greatest things I did for my life.”

Nesbit was inspirational, Cook said. “He had team meetings every morning at 8 o’clock, and that instilled discipline. I truly, truly appreciate Coach Nesbit and the opportunity he gave me to earn my degree at Roane State.”

Cook also credits his fellow Raiders for motivating him as a member of a “team with the goal to win. They helped mold me into the person I am today.”

“Little kids would walk up to me after games and say, ‘You’re my favorite player,’” Cook recalled. He also fondly remembers participating in the college’s youth basketball camp each summer and how campers tended to gravitate toward him, calling him “Coach Chris.”

Injuries, including broken bones, sidelined Cook for much of his Roane State career, but Nesbit played another key role in funding his players’ participation in “Exposure Camp” in Atlanta. Up-and-coming players showcased their skills before coaches who were recruiting.

Cook was tabbed in an influential report as a player to watch, and Barton College assistant coach Joel Zimmerman, a Roane State graduate who also played under Nesbit’s leadership, recruited him for an athletic scholarship at the small North Carolina college.

Injuries would again plague Cook at Barton, but he vividly recalls when the Barton team played against the University of North Carolina on the Tar Heels’ home court. Barton lost to that powerhouse squad in a televised game, but Cook said his cell phone “blew up” with well-wishers’ messages after the contest.

With Los Angeles gyms closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cook said he has recently been focusing on his mental, emotional and spiritual training and making connections with NBA owners and others. “Relationships in life are super important,” he said, and one such connection resulted in him finding a top-notch coach to help him sharpen his basketball shooting skills.

Meanwhile, Cook is working on his “BEGREAT Inspiration” podcast and said he’s in the process of getting it trademarked. He’s already compiled interviews with 13 guests, some of whom are well known. Cook said he’s keeping his guest list under wraps. “It will be a surprise until I tell the world.”

About Bob Fowler

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