Let her Cook

Junior+guard+Makira+Cook+makes+a+layup+against+Indiana+on+Wednesday.+Since+transferring+to+Illinois%2C+Cook+has+had+an+immense+impact+on+Illinois%2C+including+helping+the+team+gain+its+first+ranking+in+years.

Jacob Slabosz

Junior guard Makira Cook makes a layup against Indiana on Wednesday. Since transferring to Illinois, Cook has had an immense impact on Illinois, including helping the team gain its first ranking in years.

By Rachel Oh, Staff Writer

Illinois is No. 22, 16-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. The team is off to its best start in Big Ten play since the 2012–13 season, in which it had a 6-3 start. After a bottom-feeding Big Ten season in 2021–2022, nobody could have predicted the team would have this upside.

It’s no secret that Shauna Green coached at Dayton before making her transfer to Illinois. However, she brought junior guard Makira Cook and sophomore forward Brynn Shoup-Hill with her. Alongside Green, Cook and Shoup-Hill have proved to be just as influential as the coaching change.

Illinois would not be where it is without Cook. Cook is from Cincinnati and attended Dayton before transferring this season. She received many honors and awards at her last stop, including the 2021–22 Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player, 2021–22 Atlantic 10 Second-Team All-Conference and 2022 A-10 Championships all-tournament team.

Although Cook stands only at 5-foot-6-inches tall, she has shown nothing but hard work and determination throughout this season. Cook has set many season highs including scoring 33 points in her game against Indiana in December, nine rebounds in her game against Alcorn in November and tallying 10 assists in her game against Delaware in November. Coach Green began starting Cook after her hot start, and the team has gone 5-2 in its past seven matches starting her.

“I don’t mind change, and I like challenging myself,” Cook said in November about her transfer. “I knew this would be a challenge, even if I was familiar with the coaches. I kind of was like, ‘Let’s do this thing. I want to be surrounded by love.’”

And Green certainly loves having Cook in Champaign.

“I think now she’s on this big stage and she gets to play against these big teams more than we got to play against this caliber team at Dayton,” Green said. “She’s thriving in the moment.”

Fast forward a few months, and Cook continued to thrive. She led her team to its first ranking in years. In a postgame interview after playing Minnesota, Cook was asked about her thoughts on becoming a ranked team under Coach Green.

“Just playing under her two years previously, I feel like I had faith in her,” Cook said. “With faith, you just got to take leaps sometimes. So I trust her, and I’m happy I came. I mean, we’re doing some pretty good things now, and I’m having fun.”

As far as instant-impact transfers come, Cook is at the top of the list. In her you get a scorer, a leader and someone who can propel her team to the next level.

“As a veteran, I guess you could call me, I just have to be big on my leadership,” Cook said. “And just keep us together with energy.”

 

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