Desert Vista basketball underwent a lot of change last season as they began a new era under under a new coaching staff. Tony Darden was hired and inherited a lot of talent. But what he was able to do with that talent took the Thunder from a fringe playoff team in 2013-14 to the state runner-ups in 2014-15.
One player that flouished under the changes that came with Coach Darden, was then junior guard Tarik Cool who may have had to make more adjustments and accept more challenges than any of the players on the team.
Cool had been known more so as a shooting guard his whole life but based on the make-up of the Thunder roster last season, there was a glaring need at point guard. Darden challenged Cool to be that person to step into that role and as a result, Cool has been able to take his game to another level for the benefit of himself but also the team.
“It’s been a huge adjustment with Coach Darden and the new coaching staff coming in,” Cool told Sports360AZ. “I’ve really had to adjust my game and change from what I had been used to doing playing two-guard. The best thing was playing with a stacked team like I had last year…being able to lead guys like Brandon Clarke and Quincy (Taylor).”
“A tough part was adjusting at the begining of the season,” he added. “And just trying to get into a flow of things.”
What made Cool the ideal candidate to make this adjustment for the team was his ability to make the game come to him. He has much better ball-handling skills than your average “shooting guard” and has excellent court vision. Improving upon that has been priority number one this summer going into his senior year.
“I’ve alway had good vision but I have definitely been trying to improve my ball-handling skills,” Cool explained. “I’ve been working with trainers like Desmond Howard (owner of ‘League Me’) and people with crazy handles like that and just trying to fine-tune my game.”
You will watch a Desert Vista game and there will be times you won’t hear Cool’s name said much over the loud speaker. But you will look down at the stat sheet after a game and see he is flirting with a double-double with points and assists. Double-Doubles are exactly easy to come by in the high school game because there is just not enough time in a game.
Cool just spent the last few weeks watching another guard who has had to make a ton of adjustments to achieve success and was able to ultimately do so at the highest level. Stephen Curry was too small, so he learned how to shoot to be taken seriously, then he was too small to be a shooting guard so he has worked himself into being one of the most skilled ball-handlers in the game. A model that Cool is trying to follow himself to reach his highest potential.
“I try to model my game after him because he is a smaller build and is an overall great player,” stated Cool.
As a result of the season Cool had as a junior which has carried into club and summer league ball, his recruitment has picked up tremendously. Recently adding offers from Fresno State, Portland State and Montana and mentioned that Utah State has shown interest as well.
“I am really blessed and I think it has really helped improve my game because you kind of have that target on your back and you have to come out there and prove yourself every game,” mentioned Cool. “I’ve just got to finish out my summer and just continue to bring that intensity every single game.”
A lot of talent has graduated from the Desert Vista roster so his ability to lead and create a much younger Thunder team in 2015-16 will be under a bigger microscope. But the adjustments and sacrifices he made as a junior should put him in that much better of a position to succeed.