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The Antelope

The Antelope

Senior ending career on late-season surge

UNK’s Winston Cook uses the glass on a contested layup during the Loper’s home game against Newman this season. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

Fifth year senior forward Winston Cook has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. With only one more game remaining in Cook’s college career, his goal is to finish strong.

As the only true senior for UNK this season, Cook has guided the young Lopers through rough waters.

“Being a leader is making sure the freshman and sophomores are staying disciplined every day, showing up on time, working hard and not getting discouraged,” Cook said. “It’s so hard if you lose your confidence in this league. As long as you stay patient and stay calm, your time is going to come.”

The beginning of the season was not kind to Cook. Through his first 11 games, he averaged six minutes of playing time and less than two points per game.

His resurgence came in the middle of January. Over the past 11 games, Cook is averaging almost 10 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes per game.

Cook’s ‘time’ came on Feb. 8, 2024, in a matchup against Central Oklahoma. He exploded for 30 points in a loss to the Bronchos. 

“That was just one of those games where every shot felt like it was going to fall,” Cook said. “My teammates kept getting me the ball and I kept attacking.”

Cook shot 13-19 from the field, which included a perfect performance from the free throw line. He also snagged five rebounds and tallied two steals.

Cook hails from Wahoo, Nebraska, and grew up watching his two older brothers excel at basketball. He attended Wahoo High School. 

Wahoo has been a basketball staple in Nebraska for much of the past 40 years. Their 114-game win streak from 1988-92 is the most in Nebraska basketball history and third in the country’s history

Cook and his teammates built upon past successes at Wahoo, making three straight state tournaments from 2017-2019. The Warriors were 2018 NSAA Class C1 state champs thanks to a game-high 19 points from Cook in the final game.

Still, Cook never thought college basketball would really be an option. After an impressive summer of AAU ball following that championship, Cook started to get looked at by college coaches.

Cook chose UNK for both basketball and academics. UNK was “the right fit” for him for both basketball and for his major, industrial distribution. 

Five years later, Cook’s basketball journey is coming to an end. His last game as a Loper will be Friday at Fort Hays State. 

Cook will have played in 106 games for the Lopers after the season finale Friday.

He will graduate this spring with a degree in industrial distribution and said he is ready for the excitement and changes that his career will bring.

“I’ve learned a lot in my time at UNK,” Cook said. “Being able to get through the downs to experience the ups has helped me build mental toughness. At the end of the day, it’s only going to help me in my future. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

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