It appears the third time is the charm for Power Electronics Valencia playmaker Omar Cook. In his third Euroleague season, Cook has reached the Quarterfinal Playoffs for the first time, although it was not for lack of trying before. Indeed, Cook has made a habit of improved with each new round, leading the Top 16 in assists all three seasons. This time, he outdid himself by setting a new Top 16 record 7.2 per game. Cook’s career average of 5.4 assists per game is the best in Euroleague Basketball history. Cook was also the Top 16’c co-leader in steals with 2.5 per game this season and has been among the top five in that category in each Top 16 he has played. Now facing a Quarterfinal Playoffs duel with Spanish League rival Real Madrid, the savvy point guard will look to take his and his team’s game to new heights and move towards a first Euroleague Final Four for both. "I am very excited,” Cook said. “Anything is possible and making it to the Final Four would be amazing. We have to take one game at the time and see what happens."
Hello, Omar. How has the Turkish Airlines Euroleague season been for Power Electronics up to this point?
"It's been great! It has been up and down, we didn't have a good start, but figured it out. We figured out the way to get back on track and get to the Top 16. We never gave up and had a little bit of luck in important games. We stepped up when it mattered and got key wins on the road. We have a pretty good team and never quit in games like that."
Being two Spanish teams, Madrid and Valencia have faced each other several times already. How much of an impact can it have in the series?
"I think that the good thing is that we don't have to travel too far. Of course, we know Madrid pretty well, but so do they know us. They are a good, balanced team and I am expecting a tough series against them. Madrid has a new coach and that can be good or bad. You never know how much that can change the series' outcome. We changed coaches and improved."
Valencia will be playing without Victor Claver and James Augustine. How difficult will it be without them?
"It is a big loss; it makes us smaller. Victor was having a great season and both players helped us a lot on the boards. Every time someone went down during the season, someone else stepped up. We have been in this position before, playing difficult games with injured players. Still, like I said, it is a big loss for us."
Based on your previous games against them, what do you have to do to beat Madrid?
"We have to play great defense. Our defense tells us when we are playing at our best level and if we have a chance to win. In a way, our defense is our offense. If we play defense the way we did in our better games, I think that we should be fine."
You are facing a very interesting matchup against an experienced playmaker, Pablo Prigioni. How much of a challenge is that?
"For me, Prigioni has always been one of the top guards in Europe back since his days in Tau. He controls the game all the time and is always level-headed. He always puts the ball in the right place. I know him pretty well and he is a great leader and a great player. So, yes, it is a big challenge to play against him."
This is your third Euroleague season. What would it mean for you to reach the Final Four for the first time?
"For me, this is already my first time in the Playoffs so I am very excited. Two years in a row, I finished the regular season first and second with Unicaja but didn't make it to the Playoffs. This year, Valencia was fourth and we reached the Playoffs! Anything is possible and making it to the Final Four would be amazing. We have to take one game at the time and see what happens."