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Cook earns top honors as a freshman
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It's not often that a freshman - yes, freshman - has a season like Eastside High's Jade Cook did in 2007-2008.

What's even more surprising is how she carried her team to nine wins, the most in recent school history and a Newton County high this season.

As a result, Cook has been selected as the Player of the Year to headline The Covington News 2007-2008 All-County Girls Basketball Team.

"She's a hard worker who never misses a practice," says Eastside girls coach Jason Grooms. "She listens and tries to do what you ask her to do. I'm hoping as she gets older and more confident she'll become more vocal. Right now she's leading by example, but I think as the years go by she's going to get more vocal."

Cook averaged nearly a double-double this season with 11 points and nine rebounds per game. She also led the team in assists with 4.5 per game.

Not only did Cook start every game, but she was the point guard, arguably the most difficult position to play on the court.

"I felt pretty good about it," says Cook with respect to her first season at the varsity level. "I was surprised that I was going to get this (award) because I was only a freshman, but it's very exciting."

Despite her youth, Cook never had problems getting to the hoop, using her quickness and toughness as an advantage to draw contact in the frontcourt. In fact, she led the Lady Eagles in free-throw attempts this season.

Cook, a product of Indian Creek Middle School, has been playing basketball since she was 6 years old. Her favorite aspect of the game is being a team player, which clearly shows based on her assists per game and relentless defense.

"The first time out there I was scared," admits Cook, "and then after awhile I got used to it. I figured out there's no reason to be nervous and to (have) no worries."

Despite a stellar season in her freshman campaign, there is still room for improvement, which should concern opponents.

"Her consistency behind the three-point line and shooting off the dribble are the two areas that we're really going to work hard with," notes Grooms. "Her strength is her ball handling. She doesn't turn the ball over, and she makes good decisions. She has good court vision, and she's savvy, which is exactly what you want."

Traditionally, Eastside has never had a very strong girls basketball team. In fact, in the three years Grooms has been at the helm the Lady Eagles have lost 54 games.

However, at the same token they have also gotten much better, increasing their win total (22) each of those seasons. In addition, with young players such as Cook it makes the future all the more thrilling.

"It's very exciting as a coach," says Grooms, who dressed out six freshmen this season. "We try to emphasize just because you're a year older doesn't mean that you're better - you've got to put the work in. All the signs are showing us that there's an extreme upside as far as how good we can be."

According to Cook, the biggest thing she learned from Grooms and company was to always play hard and remain focused.

"Jade is a really good player, but we're excited about other players we've got, too," says Grooms. "I'm hoping her game is going to go up along with these other players, who will give her more scoring opportunities. We need other players to step up so everybody doesn't concentrate on just her with double teams and traps."

So, what can the Lady Eagles expect come next season?

"Big things," responds Cook with a smile.