Every day for five weeks, Bert "Heater" Cook, one of 45 rookies trying to make the New York Knickerbockers' team in 1952, checked the bulletin board
after practice. "The coach would say, `If your name's on there, then you go home,' " Cook recalls.His name was never on the go-home list. He made it, one of two rookies the Knicks kept.
"That was the most thrilling and rewarding of anything I've ever had, just being a little country boy and going back there," says Cook, whose long list of athletic accomplishments from Weber High through Utah State University and the Knicks has gained him entry to the Utah Sports Hall of Fame on the first try.
Cook, of Roy, will be inducted with four others at ceremonies Thursday at the Red Lion Hotel in Salt Lake City. Reservations are $20 per person and may be made by calling Larry Palmer at 484-0666.
"I'll never forget it," says Cook of the Knicks' camp. He told himself he couldn't let his parents down by getting cut. It was a tough camp. "We'd fight and tackle each other," he remembers.
Cook played two seasons with the Knicks. "I watched Bill Sharman and (Bob) Cousy and played with some of the best," says the 62-year-old Cook, who for the past 18 years has operated the Bert Cook Auction Company, turning his father's love of antiques into a business selling antiques, furniture, farms and estates.
His pro basketball career was shortened by two years with the Army and then, in 1955, ended by a knee injury.
An all-state basketballer and Utah All-American baseball player who also participated in football and track at Weber High, Cook went on to start 83 straight basketball games at USU.
His No. 6 jersey was the first the Aggies ever retired. "It was thrilling," he says. Since it had never been done before, he wasn't sure what it meant. "I guess I felt like I accomplished everything I wanted."
The night the jersey was retired (at halftime of the last game of the season), Cook was in a heated battle for the Skyline Conference scoring title with Utah's Glen Smith and won the championship by a few points. "He's a Hall of Famer. It makes me feel pretty good, looking back," says Cook, who also won as a junior. He was Skyline MVP as a senior.
Cook, an Aggie forward, scored 1,133 points in two varsity seasons. He was named a first-team All-American by the Helms Foundation in 1950-51 and toured with other college All-Americans with the Harlem Globetrotters. That was a big deal, especially the $100 a game he was paid.
But, he says, "The Knicks were the biggest thing in my life; I knew the 'Trotters was going to end."