Xavier Cooks wasn’t too surprised when he learned Tuesday afternoon that Pat Kelsey was headed to UMass.
The Winthrop standout’s dad, Eric, has been a pro basketball assistant coach for 20 years in Australia, and Cooks knows how the coaching business works.
“I know at the end of the day it’s business,” he said Wednesday evening. “I think he made the right business decision to move, but I hate to see it happen. I love Coach Kelsey and what he’s done for this program and I’ll always be grateful for everything he gave me. Financially, I know they’re probably paying a whole lot more at UMass, so, pretty happy for him.”
Kelsey nearly quadrupled his salary moving from Rock Hill to Amherst after five seasons, and Cooks undoubtedly discussed that with his dad and mom, who are in Charlotte visiting from Australia until the end of the month. They came over for Winthrop’s NCAA Tournament game in Milwaukee and are staying with Cooks’ brother, Dominique, who moved to Charlotte late last year.
Cooks only has one year of college eligibility remaining, but it’s not 100 percent certain that he uses it at Winthrop.
“I really don’t know, to be honest with you,” he said, when asked if he’ll be back. “I love Winthrop so I’ll most likely come back here but I was recruited by Coach Kelsey, so that’s a big factor there. But I haven’t put any thought into it.”
Right now, I’m just working out and doing my thing, and I’ll see who the new coach is around here and make my decision from there.
Winthrop junior Xavier Cooks
Cooks was a first team All-Big South selection and stands a good chance of being the league’s preseason player of the year this fall. Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh called Cooks the best pro prospect in the Big South after the Eagles beat CSU in the Big South tournament, while Butler coach Chris Holtmann said before last week’s NCAA game against the Eagles that Cooks could play “anywhere in the country, at any time.”
Cooks averaged 16.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game this season, leading the Eagles in rebounding, assists, steals and blocked shots, while recording 13 double-doubles. He was walking to the West Center to get up some shots while he talked to a reporter on the phone.
“I’m naturally not a good shooter so if I take too many weeks off I’m gonna come back looking scrappy,” he said. “Not too much cardio. Just getting a feel for the ball, dribbling it and shooting it.”
The 6-foot-8 Wollongong, Australia native was asked if Winthrop assistant coach Mark Prosser getting promoted into the head job would impact his thinking.
“I think that’d be a great idea,” Cooks said. “If you bring in a new coach, you’ve got to start from scratch. You’ve got to learn our system, how to treat people and ‘Pross’ is already two steps ahead, he already knows that. I feel like if he steps in we can go straight back to the success we’ve had the last couple years.”