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August 27, 2009

Nevada Hoopster Transfers to USC

Former Nevada basketball player Malik Cooke is enrolled at South Carolina, according to his high school coach, the USC student directory and a source with the Gamecocks' basketball program.

The next step is to wait.

According to David Gaines, Cooke's former coach at Christ School (N.C.), Cooke wants to play basketball for the Gamecocks. He wouldn't be able to in 2009-10 because of NCAA transfer rules, but he also hasn't been released from his scholarship at Nevada.

Nevada assistant athletics director in charge of media relations Rhonda Lundin confirmed that Cooke has not been released from his scholarship, although the player went through the appeals process. "He applied through all of the channels and was not released," Lundin said on Thursday.

That means that Cooke would not be able to get any kind of athletic financial aid from USC until the scholarship expires. That would happen in a year, since the scholarship is a one-year renewable contract.

In the meantime, Lundin was sure that Cooke could be treated just like a normal walk-on to USC's basketball team. He could do everything but play, since he is still a transfer, but couldn't receive an athletic scholarship.

Gaines confirmed on Thursday that Cooke's family was paying for his schooling this year.

Gaines said that Cooke requested a transfer a couple of weeks before Nevada coachMark Fox left to become Georgia's coach, which caught Fox and Gaines off-guard. "I had no idea that he felt that way," Gaines said. "Coach Fox called and let me know and we were both stunned.

"I've never gotten a real clear answer for why he wanted to leave," Gaines continued, "but I would guess it's just being so far from home. He's from Charlotte and the distance and never getting to see his family was probably what did it."

Cooke left and enrolled at USC for the fall semester. He talked to USC coach Darrin Horn on Wednesday, according to Gaines. Gaines confirmed he had talked to Cooke, who said he was taking classes at USC; and with Horn, who called Gaines to find out what kind of player he was getting, on Wednesday.

"It's not a bad guy to fall in your lap," Gaines said.

Attempts to reach Cooke and his family were unsuccessful. Cooke's father, Richard Jones, answered his phone but said he had no comment at this time.

The 6-foot-5 Cooke remains Christ School's career leading scorer and played at Nevada for two seasons, rising from a substitute freshman to the Wolf Pack's third-leading scorer (9.6 points) and second-leading rebounder (6.2) as a sophomore in 2008-09. He blocked 20 shots, tied for third on the team, and helped Nevada win 21 games.

He'll have two years of eligibility remaining after this year and can re-team with USC freshman Lakeem Jackson, also a Christ School alumnus. He'll also have a chance to break into the lineup next season, considering the Gamecocks have five seniors who are about to play their final year.

All that's left is for Cooke to wait a year, until his Nevada scholarship expires and he can take a spot with the Gamecocks, assuming he can make the team.

Gaines said it would be worth the wait.

"What we got originally was a kid that was still 14," Gaines said. "He progressed every year. As a junior and a senior, he was our leader."



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