Cowboy basketball coach Larry Shyatt finished off the 2012-13 recruiting class on Wednesday when Derek Cooke signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Wyoming. The 6’9″ forward will transfer to UW from Cloud County Community College and will have three years of eligibility remaining.

“He is not the typical prospect who has only two years left,” Shyatt said. “He also has far less behind him than ahead of him and he hasn’t been dirtied, like so many young players nowadays, and poisoned by the process. Every day that I spent learning more about Derek and watching him play more, I have great confidence in our coaching staff, and they were quite certain he was the best available player in the country with what he to offer and what time he has to develop.”

A football player in high school, Cooke did not play organized basketball until joining the team at Cloud. While there was no doubt Cooke was an athlete, his junior college coach, Chad Eshbaugh admitted that it was rough at the start.

“Basically every rep he got was the very rep he’d ever had before,” Eshbaugh said. “His first practice of his entire life was his first practice here, the first game he ever played in with officials was the first game he played here this year. The basics you sometimes just assume, we couldn’t assume anything with Derek. So from day one we kind of started from scratch and it’s been a really good experience for me and hopefully for Derek, his time here at Cloud, because I’ve just watched him grow as much as I’ve seen any player grow in a two year period of time.”

After his redshirt year, Cooke helped the Thunderbirds to a 25-8 overall record during the 2011-12 campaign. Cloud County went 11-5 in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference and advanced to the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I Region VI Tournament. Cooke notched team highs of 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 55 percent from the floor to go with 6.0 points and nearly one steal per game.

Cooke attended Friendly High School in Washington, D.C., where he was a 6-2 wide receiver on the football team. An NCAA qualifier after graduating, he decided to take a year off from school and hit a growth spurt, before enrolling at Cloud County. Cooke is the son of Derek Sr. and Debbie Cooke-Slade. His stepdad is Tyrone Slade.

Shyatt said he does expect Cooke to be able to contribute to the team right away. He will train in Laramie this summer and go with the Cowboy basketball team on their trip to Canada. Cooke joins Nathan Sobey and Charles Hankerson, Jr. as players who signed during this signing period.