The tail end of August 2005 should have been among the happiest days of Lovell Cook’s young life.

School was still out, a chance to run carefree in the park or playground with friends, steeling himself for a sophomore season at Warren East high school and the opportunity to impress the college scouts passing through the gym.

He was chilled, even as the weather warnings were sounding, about a hurricane passing through the Bahamas and headed towards the southern coast of the United States.

“I wasn’t thinking it would be much,” Cook recalls. “We had a lot of hurricanes come through. Sometimes you stayed , sometimes you’d leave.

“It was only at the last minute they went: ‘oh, it’s a Category 5’. You need to go.”

When Katrina smashed destructively through his native New Orleans, the London Lions forward was on the road with his mother and three of his siblings, joining a motorcade speeding due north out of town, each car packed with people and whatever belongings could be grabbed in the quickest possible time.

“We made it out before it got really bad, before the levees broke,” the BBL rookie reveals. “My family’s big. I have nine aunts and two uncles and every body left. Some went to Texas, to different parts.

“My older sister and my nephews came with me, my brother and my other sister to Atlanta. It was just all new. We had to start again.”

It took months before the refugees from Louisiana settled properly. He was found a high school in Cobb County, just west of the ATL. New faces, new friends. Basketball was the only familiar reference.

“I tried out for the team. It was a whole new city that I’d never been to. I had almost nothing, just one little bag of clothes. I had to completely adjust.”

Hoops, at least, required little acclimatisation in the starting over. His mother Patricia kept the family together in their home from home, knowing that all they had known from before had been washed away by the torrent.

A year later, they went back. Their street had become a tip, their former home scattered to the winds.

“It was all gone,” Cook declares. “There was nothing we could recognise. It was all debris. And it was contaminated so you couldn’t even look through it. You didn’t want to fool with that stuff.

“We stayed for a little bit but then we went back to Atlanta. And I stayed there until I graduated high school when me and my Mom went back to New Orleans.”

The now-24-year-old spent two seasons in junior college in Oklahoma before returning back to where he had started, at the University of New Orleans. There, he led the Privateers in scoring for two seasons before the pros beckoned.

What followed was a barren year. With no job offers turning into contracts, Cook ventured to Canada to stay with a friend who had landed a coaching job, volunteering his services. A couple of workouts came up but no deals were done. By mid-winter, he was already planning ahead, to a recruitment process that would eventually see him catch the attention of Lions head coach Vince Macaulay at a combine in Las Vegas.

“I’d call this my rookie season,” he smiles. Despite issues in getting international clearance that delayed his London debut, he has started promisingly in the BBL, scoring 25 points in Sunday’s loss to Newcastle.

Chemistry has yet to arrival in the Lions’ multi-dimensional cast. The wheels of bonding have been put in motion, he says. “We did a couple of team activities together. Drew (Sullivan) took us to do ju jitsu and we enjoyed it. I think we’re clicking.”

It will be intriguing to watch, with ample talent but obvious overlap between the capabilities of Macaulay’s recruits.

How many balls, you wonder, will this team require?

“One would be perfect,” Cook laughs. Plus for it to flow back and forth. Having sailed across the ocean, he is eager to be the one blowing up a storm.

BBL Notes

– The BBL took a gamble last season when they moved to an online broadcast service and there was another one of the bumps in the road on Sunday when their scheduled clash between London and Newcastle was a no-show for a long spell.

I was at the Copper Box pre-game and all was set up by the team there. It did not appear, explained the league, because their US-based technology providers failed to take account of the hour change in time difference.

There was vitriolic reaction on social media, and rightly so. You pay, you expect the service. But fans need to cut the BBL a little slack (and I must declare an interest in occasionally commentating on the broadcasts). It is a low-cost but high-value offering that beats having no coverage at all. And I’m told consideration is being given to extra games to try and fuel the demand.

– You’d think having a former NBA player enter the BBL would be a big deal, right? As of Tuesday, we’ve had no official release that Cheshire Phoenix has signed one-time Denver Nugget Julius Hodge, following our breaking of the story last week. It even took the Nix – who are also finalising terms with Virgin Islander Lester Prosper – until Tuesday to retrospectively ‘announce’ his signing on their own website.

This should have been big news, underlining again that teams and the league need to vastly raise their game in generating some noise.

BBL Insider appears every Tuesday on MVP

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