With years of experience playing abroad in countries such as America and Spain, as well as being a participant in the 2016 NBA Draft, Jack Crook spoke about his background playing abroad and the development of youth basketball participation in the U.K.
Crook began his playing career at his local junior side, Manchester Magic, before impressing at the U18 national and European cups. He was soon scouted by college coaches and eventually moved overseas to join Seattle college in the NCAA.
After initially planning to red shirt his first year, Crook was called into the Seattle team as a backup option at centre, describing the transition across as a challenging one.
“The style of play is a lot different and its taken a lot more seriously which is the first thing you realise. You’re practicing twice a day and lifting weights, so even that physical take on your body takes a long time to get used to.
“The pace is completely different too, you are not used to how fast the game moves, so the first year or two is a massive adjustment.”
After his senior year at Seattle, the 27-year-old was able to register career best in points and rebounds in games and finished the season on a respectable average of 10.09 points per game.
He was soon selected to be in the 2016 NBA Draft which saw future NBA all stars Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown all selected in the top three picks.
However, arguably the best pick from the draft was the number 27th pick Pascal Siakam who would go on to become a mainstay at the Toronto Raptors, who later became the NBA champions in 2019.
“Pascal Siakam was in my conference at New Mexico state and he was head and shoulders the best player in our conference but was still a really low draft pick just because of the conference we were in.
“Players don’t really get drafted at that level and it’s always your elite from your elite at other states like Kentucky.
“In my junior year we were one game away from going to the NCAA tournament and we lost in the final against New Mexico state and Siakam.”
Jack went undrafted and soon returned back to Europe to play in Spain with Agustinos Eras and later in Georgia with Rustavi.
He left Georgia later that season and went back to his roots by signing with the Manchester Giants in the BBL (British Basketball League).
“It was really good to go home as I was in Georgia for four months and I had stopped getting paid.
“I hadn’t played basketball at home since I was 18 so after five years it was nice to come home and play in front of friends and family almost every game.
“After a year in Spain and Georgia it was nice to be able to socialise more because when your away you don’t do anything but basketball.
“Eat, sleep, drink, basketball all day everyday so it was nice to have more to your life as well.”
Jack would finish the season at Manchester and later departed for France to link up with JALT Le Mans in the French NM2 division.
“I’m planning on finishing out the season in France. I may do a couple more years abroad but eventually the plan is to come back home and finish out my career in the BBL.
“I have family there, niece and nephews growing up and it would be good to be close to them.”
Jack also commented about the difficulties he faced in getting into the NCAA and he how the youth development in UK Basketball has changed over his tenure.
“It doesn’t seem like the government has the same desire to push basketball in the UK compared to what other countries do, but having said compared to when I was a kid growing up and compared to now when I come home and see the facilities that are being built it’s definitely getting better but it needs to continue to push and grow.
“Having watched the BBL over the past couple of years I think the standard of that has progressed massively as well which has had a knock on effect as more people are watching it at a higher level so I hope that the virus doesn’t knock it back too much and the BBL teams remain at a high and competitive level.
“I got very lucky in the fact that when I was playing for England, college coaches come and recruit at the European championships and being at the Manchester Magic Junior club as it’s one of the more premier clubs in England.
“If I wasn’t close enough to play for Manchester, where I lived and was brought up, I don’t think I would’ve made it to an American college.”