Twenty-four years ago, there was a girl who dribbled a basketball at the end of her dead-end street in Grass Valley. The pavement in the front yard holds memories of the countless hours she spent practicing with her father, becoming the player, the teammate, the champion and the accomplished individual Nevada Union graduate Kellie Cook is today.
“Our neighbors got used to hearing the ball bounce on the street,” said Cook. “My dad coached me since I was seven years old and put in thousands of hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if the blacktop was a little bit lower near that end of the street.”
A Miners legend from the class of 1991, Cook was honored Oct. 14 as an inductee in the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Sacramento‘s Sleep Train Arena.
Sunday’s ceremony also featured inductee Suzy Powell-Roos, a national champion in the discus and a three-time Olympian. She took the podium and delivered a speech that struck a chord with Cook when she exclaimed she was inspired by the former Nevada Union basketball phenom.
“You were the standard,” said Powell-Roos, one of two inductees selected to speak. “Thanks for inspiring a generation of young girls.”
Cook was named a member of the CalHiSports All-State first team in 1990 and 1991, the 1991 Gatorade California girls basketball player of the year, a Parade All-American and Sacramento Bee two-time female player of the year. She won three consecutive Division I section titles from 1989 to 1991, scoring 47 points in the Miners’ 67-64 victory over Merced in the 1991 title game, which stands as the most for a section championship game.
She is the current record holder for the Northwestern Wildcats women’s basketball team for the best single-season and career 3-point shooting percentage, which sits at .444.
She is the only Nevada Union athlete to be inducted into the section hall of fame.
Being inducted was much more than an honor for Cook. It was also a long-awaited opportunity.
“Seventeen-year-old girls just don‘t say thank you to their parents,” said Cook. “I used this as my chance to thank them for everything they‘ve ever done for me.
“I remember snowflakes coming down while I was shooting free-throws,” said Cook. “I told my mom it was too cold and time to go inside, but she said, ‘Kellie just ten more.’ My mom cheered me on every game. We were kind of superstitious. She always held on to my warmup jersey.”
Upon graduating Nevada Union, Cook attended Northwestern University, home of the Wildcats. She led the Big 10 Conference in 3-pointers and her team made it to the Sweet 16 before being eliminated by Tennessee. Cook later transferred to UC Santa Barbara to finish her undergraduate degree.
“I had a choice to make after college where I probably could have gone pro in basketball if I really pursued it, but I’ve always valued academics over athletics. I graduated NU as valedictorian.”
Cook was the only athlete in this year’s hall of fame class with an advanced degree.
Today she is married and lives in Meadow Vista as the proud mother of two boys, one 5 years old and the other 4 months old.
“I’m very blessed. I completed my education at Vanderbilt’s prestigious law school in 2000,” said Cook. “I met my husband on a blind date in Nevada City. We just signed my 5-year-old son up for his first basketball league. I can hardly contain my excitement. I hope it becomes a sport he loves.”
As for athletes playing today who may want to follow in her footsteps, Cook had this advice.
“Pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to work hard in your pursuit,” she said. “I was fortunate we had unique convergences of talent for my four years. Always remember to have fun too.”
To contact Sports Writer Brian Shepard, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4234.
“Our neighbors got used to hearing the ball bounce on the street.”
— Kellie Cook,
on practicing on the street in front of her home