Friday, April 23, 2010

Cook Hall -- The Future of Indiana Basketball Is Now

Does Indiana’s new Cook Hall mean that the Hoosiers will soon surpass Kentucky as the must-sign destination for college basketball superstars?

Hey, it’s okay to dream, and when you see this much-needed multi-million-dollar upgrade to the program, and you NEED to see it, you’ll want to dream.

Cook Hall (photo courtesy of IU athletics) features identical facilities for the men’s and women’s programs. That means no more sharing the Assembly Hall court, which forced the teams to alter their academic schedules depending on when they could practice. It will have a state-of-the-art weight room, training room, locker room, coaches offices, meeting rooms and, best of all a Legacy Court that has enough bells and whistles to inspire the most fanatical of fans. Why? Because it highlights the tradition of a program that has produced five national championships, 41 All-Americans and enough memories to ensure the program’s status among the nation’s best.

Yes, the Hoosiers have struggled the last few years thanks to the mess left by serial phone caller Kelvin Sampson. Yes, coach Tom Crean is in overdrive trying to restore the Cream ‘n Crimson’s winning ways, and that means, among other things, upgrading the talent.

You’d better believe this facility will help. Sure, Crean figures players will be impressed by all the cool features, but beyond that he wants them inspired by the history, tradition and legacy that made IU a school to fear for so long.

“We want recruits to come in here and they will be impressed,” Crean said. “They’ll certainly be impressed with the graphics.”

Those graphics, by the way, are due to the year-plus efforts of associate athletic director Kit Klingelhoffer and former Herald-Times sports editor Bob Hammel. They planned and implemented all the Legacy Court displays.

“I want recruits studying the history of Indiana basketball,” Crean said. “For a historian, it’s unreal. The true fan will be blown away. I want the casual observer to say, ‘I want to see that again.’ That’s what I hope. The 15-year-old, the 16-year-old, even the 14-year-old, I want them to love it. I want them to see they can get better here.”

What will they see? How about a regulation-size practice court (players will have 24-hour access to it), a 2,000-square foot weight room (exclusively for basketball) and a spacious locker room that includes a players’ lounge and a 55-inch flat-screen TV.

Coaches will have meeting rooms, two balconies to view practice action, and a state-of-the-art video system to record practices and games.

Trainers will have a high-tech sports medicine facility that includes three small pools for hydrotherapy training (water running, swimming, jump training, balance training), recording equipment for analysis and four training tables (twice as many as what they have in Assembly Hall).

IU officials will dedicate Cook Hall, which is connected by an underground tunnel to Assembly Hall, on Sunday. The coaches have moved into their new offices (although Crean has been on the road recruiting so much, he’s barely had time to settle in), but the players must wait until next week, when all the final touches (including new equipment for the weight room and training room) are finished.

In case you wondered, it’s called Cook Hall because of the $15 million donation from Bill and Gayle Cook, and the Cook Group, a medical device company based in Bloomington.

Oh, one other thing. IU went from no practice facility to one that rivals, if not surpasses, every other such facility in the country. Does it guarantee a return to national relevance? No, but it’s a hell of a start.

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