WVU commit Cook lands at Huntington Prep
HUNTINGTON -- When Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford got a call from Levi Cook's family regarding the possibility of Cook coming to Huntington, he had a bit of a dilemma at hand.
Fulford had already publicly addressed his intentions to not recruit an in-state player, but here was a kid who had already made the decision to leave Liberty (Raleigh) and the state of West Virginia for prep-school opportunities.
Cook was set on moving to either Florida or Maryland in pursuit of the opportunity to play against tougher competition.
As Fulford assessed the idea of Cook staying in-state to join the Express, he knew there was only one program that could accommodate both the wishes of his family, who wanted to watch him play, and Cook, who wanted to take on the nation's best.
That program is Huntington Prep.
Following the conversation, Fulford said it ultimately came down to the fundamentals of why the veteran coach started the program at Mountain State Academy in Beckley before bringing Huntington Prep to Huntington.
The Mullens, W.Va., native wanted his home state to experience elite-level basketball at the high school level.
"The fact that he was already leaving the state was an interesting dynamic for this particular case," Fulford said. "There's no sense in the kid having to go to Florida or Maryland when we're here."
Cook pointed to the basketball aspect of the move as his main motivation. At Liberty (Raleigh), he was a 6-10, 290-pound force down low playing in West Virginia's Class AA with guys guarding him who are likely five or more inches and 80 or more pounds lighter than him.
"It's something I wanted to do for my game," Cook said. "I'm going to miss Liberty a lot, but I'll still be in-state and be able to represent the state. It's better all the way around -- especially basketball-wise."
At Huntington Prep, Cook will go up against players like 6-9 forward Angel Delgado and 6-8 forward Miles Bridges -- athletic post players who will help Cook refine his skills while pushing him tempo-wise, which will get his body ready for Division I basketball.
Cook has already committed to West Virginia University, meaning he is only two years away from the Big 12 Conference.
"He's not ready for the Big 12 yet but he will be, and it's my job to make sure that he is," Fulford said. "He's an in-state kid committed to an in-state university and he was going to leave the state. It made no sense for us to let that happen.
"Obviously, by bringing him in, we've got to do our due diligence. That's why we felt Levi was in a little different scenario than other in-state kids. He's 6-10 and I can count on one hand how many 6-5 kids there are playing in the state. For him, it made sense to make a move where he could play up and play against guys his size."
As Cook walked in to meet with new teammates for the first time on Sunday, he had to duck his head a bit due to the low door facings.
Just like with everything else, it will take some adjustment, which Cook said will be biggest for his family.
"I'm not going to lie," Cook said. "I'm their baby, so they are upset, but they know I have to do what I need to do. It's just two-and-a-half hours for them, and it's better for them to travel here than Florida."
While Huntington isn't exactly the same as home in Raleigh County for Cook and his family, it's about as close as can be expected, given the unique situation.
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