Ashanti Cook is a 30 year old 188cm point guard from Inglewood, California who isn´t an unknown face in the German basketball world as he has played in Braunschweig and Hannover. He started his basketball career at Georgetown where he played from 2002-2006 playing a total of 115 NCAA games and as a senior played 33 games averaging 10.2ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0spg, FG: 47%, 3PT: 43.7%, FT: 78%. He started his professional basketball career in 2006 with the New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig (Germany-1.Bundesliga)playing 33 games averaging 5.9ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.8apg, 1.0spg, 2FGP: 51.2%, 3FGP: 33.3%, FT: 81.3%. He also gained experience in the D-league, Mexico and Macedonia. He is looking to jump start his basketball career again. He spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Ashanti thanks for talking to German Hoops. Where are you and how have you been enjoying your summer?
Sure no problem and thank you for this opportunity. I am enjoying my summer in Los Angeles, California and having a great summer. I’m working out staying in basketball ready shape, and training kids in basketball skills. Also taking a vacation or two here and there, that’s how I’m enjoying my summer.
Time really flies Ashanti, your turning 31 years old and it has been almost 10 years since you were a rookie with Braunschweig in Germany. Has your professional basketball career really flown by or has the lack of games in nine seasons made your career seem quite long?
Yes it does, time flies so fast. I remember it like yesterday I was a rookie in Braunschweig and learning the ropes of European basketball from the veterans on the team especially Tory Walker, he taught me a lot in that year. My professional career has been interesting. It’s had a lot of ups and downs and been inconsistent but it has taught me perseverance, and to never doubt my abilities or myself one bit. It’s been a great teacher of life that I have been able to apply to in my personal life.
You played in Germany, the D-league, CBA, Mexico and Macedonia, but in nine seasons played only a total of 103 games. When you came out of Georgetown in 2006, I am sure that you had very other expectations and wishes of how your basketball career would go or not?
Honestly coming out of college I didn’t know what to expect or how to build my career. I just wanted to hoop and play very competitive basketball and hopefully get a shot at playing in the NBA. Things don’t always go according to plan and you must adjust. It has been frustrating at times looking back at my career but I applaud myself for sticking with it and continuing to be positive and staying ready.
In your last two seasons at Georgetown despite a roster packed with great players like future NBA players Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert and future BBL players Brandon Bowman and Jonathan Wallace, you held your own averaging 10,8ppg and 10,2ppg in your last two seasons and as a senior shot a very respectable 43% from downtown. You must have been very surprised that your rookie season in Braunschweig didn´t pan out the way it should have or not?
I was very shocked and frustrated that season a lot. I did not understand why I went from playing a lot of minutes to barely playing at all. I started off slow because the European game is so much different from the American especially Germany. I had a little success then things took a turn during the season with the coach and I. I like European basketball they compete hard and play great team defense and offense. It’s a more structured game and a lot less one on one. It really is the definition of team basketball, which I have come to love and appreciate and the way the game should be played.
When you look back at your rookie season what really went wrong? The club had a very knowledgeable coach in Emir Mutapcic who had won titles with Alba Berlin and solid players. Especially at the guard position with Greg Davis a solid player, but a guy that you surely could of given more a run for the money in the competition area. I was really surprised that you didn´t play more of a role that season. What went wrong?
Coach and I had different philosophies on the way the game should be played. He wanted me to be mostly a facilitator and defender. That’s totally not my game, I’m more of a do it all point guard. Rebound, Score, defend, facilitate and block a shot or two. I like to do everything. So there were a lot of meetings and shouting matches that occurred between him and I, and therefore it resulted in me not playing a lot. Also he showed a lot of favoritism towards certain players and I’m not going to mention any names. But I didn’t agree with that either. He gave some of them a long leash on the offensive end than others and didn’t discipline them for defensive mistakes.
Did that rookie season scare you a bit and prompt brought you back to the States to try your luck in the CBA and D-league? What was most difficult about finding a niche in the D-League. What did you learn about the D-League? That it is a business first and that the players are nothing more than exchangeable parts?
That Rookie season was tough to deal with mentally but it didn’t scare me. At that time I felt the d-league was a good option to try and raise my stock a little bit overseas since I didn’t have great stats and be a resume builder. If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to go back to Europe and build my name over there instead of the D-league. It’s very hard trying to find your niche in the D-League, so many players trying to showcase their talents for NBA scouts and you are literally footsteps away from your dream of potentially playing in the NBA. The D-league is a business and the moment they can find someone else to do your job or that has a credible name they will replace you in a heartbeat. I learned quickly that playing this game, there is absolutely no job security what so ever. And you always have to be on you’re A+ game and healthy.
You then played briefly in Mexico in the 2009-2010 season and then in 2010-2011 trained basketball players in Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, in a student outreach program with the United States State department, through Georgetown University. Were you at this point retired as a professional basketball player?
Yeah at that point I pretty much was frustrated with the way my career was headed so I stepped away from the game. I loved it so much but it was truly not making me happy. I had lost interest and was not motivated anymore. I also had some other interest I wanted to pursue such as acting, so I got into that. I ended up becoming kind of successful booking some national commercials, and auditioning for TV shows and independent films. It will definitely be something I revisit once I put the ball down.
However it seemed like you still had the love for the game. In 2012 you played in the well known Drew League semi- pro league with Team DaFam 12.2ppg, 5.4apg, 3.2rpg and took part at the International Scouting Combines in Las Vegas and Southern California Summer Pro League (C1 Team). What still motivated you at this point to try to come back as a professional player? Was it really just for the love of the game?
Yeah that time off and playing in the Drew League recharged my batteries. I was still relatively young so I attended and overseas camp and wanted to try and get a contract to play competitively because I missed the game. I missed the practices with your teammates, bus rides, that feeling you get during warm up lines, all the mental preparation that takes place leading up to the game. And of course the chess match that takes place during the game. It’s something that can never be replaced because I have been playing all my life. I missed it and my return was for the love of the game.
Did you learn in this time just how cruel the basketball world is? I mean it seems like for every season a player is inactive one ages like 5 years. How difficult was this time for you mentally knowing you still had game, but that the odds were against you?
Yeah that part is hard to deal with, especially because you’re thinking and working out and seeing that you still got it even though you are older but teams don’t see it that way. It’s crazy if you sit out a year or two, teams think your game has diminished instead of giving you a shot. Teams seem to favor youth over experience. But I am going to continue to stay positive and game ready even though the odds are stacked against me.
Did you ever doubt your abilities? After the success with Georgetown and now not being able to find a basketball job? Was there a single person that helped you most in this time stay positive?
I was my own self motivation. I kept saying to myself that you only get one life and a certain amount of time to play basketball, why not play until you cant play anymore. So that’s my mentally right now. Not one moment did I ever doubt my abilities. I still have a lot of basketball to play, I just need the opportunity to show what I can do. Hopefully a team out there will take a chance and give me a shot.
In the 2012-2013 season you got your big break signing with UBC Hannover. It was your first job again in three years. How thankful were you for head coach Michael Mai giving you a second chance?
I thanked Coach Michael Mai a lot, basically every day. That season I played with pure joy, I was happy to be back and doing what I love which is play basketball.
In the 2013-2014 season after a solid season in Germany you played for ABA Strumica (FYR Macedonia-Prva Liga playing 24 games: 14.0ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.5apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 42.1%, 3PT: 36.0%, FT: 84.6%. What kind of experience was this for you? It was your first time out of Germany playing a season?
It was definitely different. But I had a great time played some good basketball and helped the team make the playoffs. I also garnered some personal accomplishments within the league such as all import team and honorable mention. Overall it was very competitive and they have a lot of good teams. Its pretty under rated as far as European competition goes, but they have teams that play in the Balkan, Adriatic and Eurocup. So the competition is very good.
However last season you were inactive again. Now you are looking for a team and possibly Germany could be the perfect place since you are known here and this could be your last chance. Did you not have contact to Michael Mai who is coaching German pro A team Kirchheim Knights this season?
Last summer was mentally tough to deal with. Especially because I had a solid season the year before in FYR Macedonia so it was very shocking that I was not able to find a club to play for. I mostly blame my former representation for not having strong connections to try and find me a job. I did my job by playing well on the court, he didn’t do his job off the court which was to get me a contract. Thus resulting in me missing another year. But yes I have been in contact with Coach Michael Mai and would love to reunite and play for him again but nothing has come up. Also they have my buddy Richie Williams who is a very good basketball player. I think we would compliment each other very well. But I am currently just staying ready for an offer from anyone, to get back to playing great basketball.
Have you stayed in contact with former Georgetown Hoyas teammates Brandon Bowman and Jonathan Wallace? They have had solid careers in Germany.
Yeah I talk to those guys all the time. Brandon is one of my best friends he and I grew up together playing AAU ball and went to the same high school so we will always be in contact. We even train together during the summers. Jon Wallace and I speak as well, we text and communicate often just to catch up and see how everything is going. I’m even trying to get him to visit out here in LA. I am very happy to see that both of them are having great careers. Those two were great teammates and competitors I loved playing alongside them at Georgetown.
If you could describe yourself in a few sentences as to why you could help any team right now this season how would you describe your basketball abilities?
I would say I am a competitor, who is hungry and loves the game of basketball and likes to see the game played the right way. I love the challenge of trying to beat my opposition, and will do whatever it takes to win. I can score, rebound, and defend. I am a do it all point guard.
What do you see the Los Angeles Lakers achieving this season in the NBA? Will this team ever be a good team again?
The Lakers have a lot of work to do. The addition of my former Georgetown teammate Roy Hibbert is a good move in the right direction. He helps a lot because he can be your anchor on defense and provides a solid post presence on offense. Not to mention he is a great passer. I think Kobe should run the point a lot more because he draws double teams and is a pretty good passer. I like their new additions of Bass and Williams. I think they are one or two good scoring options away from being able to compete in the West. But overall the Lakers are playing in a loaded Western Conference. But who knows they may surprise a lot teams. It will be an interesting season for the Lakers.
What is the state of Lebron James in 2015? What does he still have to do to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan?
Lebron James has already solidified himself amongst the greats. He will go down as a top ten basketball player of all time. The game has never seen a guy as physically gifted as he is and able to play at a very high level night in and night out. His IQ is off the charts and ability to play and guard multiple positions is amazing to watch. (He is the SHAQ of Guards and Small Forwards) But, he is in his own category as far as greatness goes. Last season I think Lebron was trying to figure out who could do what and when, opposed to just playing. I think that whole season was a bunch of figuring out everyone’s role and Cleveland’s identity. But now with that trial run over, I see him being extremely focused and poised from the first game of the season until his last, which he hopes is a championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
We share a common trait and I always think of you on September 20th because that is when we celebrate our birthdays. If I could I would give you a team contract as a present this year. What would you give me?
I would give you a contract to be a beat writer for an NBA team.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Neighbors with Zac Efron and Seth Rogen.
Thnaks Ashanti for the chat.