The people who helped Hallice Cooke

Ben Visser

The game of basketball has always been Hallice Cooke’s number one priority. His dad used to think he’d get burned out by the time he was 14-years-old because putting up 1,000 shots a day is physically and mentally grueling.

He thought Hallice would discover girls and that would be the end of basketball.

Hallice was the complete opposite, he pushed girls to the side. Any good boyfriend is willing to make sacrifices for his girlfriend, but Hallice didn’t pay any mind to his “supposed” girlfriend’s sweet 16 party.

“He had no time for the party,” Robert Cooke said. “He was like, ‘I have to go home, I have to get up in the morning, I have a game. Case closed.’ That was the end of that girlfriend. The game was always bigger.”

Hallice relied on a strong core to help him get to where he is today.


Robert Cooke

“At 58 he still gets up and works,” Hallice said. “He hasn’t changed a bit. He loves me no matter what. Seeing my parents happy, that was probably the toughest part of this year — them not having that extra happiness.”

Robert Cooke lives to see his son play basketball. Hallice said he loves the opportunity to bring his dad joy on the basketball court, and while he sat out last season, Robert was devoid of that happiness.

Robert is an accountant for the fashion company Alexander Wang and works almost 24/7 to provide for his family. His wife, DeLayne Cooke, said he’s the only person who wakes up and works before he goes to work.

“I’ll get to the computer and start working before I go to the bathroom in the morning,” Robert said.

Robert has instilled that same work ethic in his son.

Hallice would persuade his dad to rebound for him and as punishment for making him rebound, Robert would demand that he to make 20 shots in a row, all-net. If the ball touched the rim, it was considered a miss, and he had to start all over.

There were times Hallice was out there for hours. But he never got frustrated. He loved it.

“I think that’s why I’m such a good shooter,” Hallice said.

Robert wasn’t so thrilled that his son enjoyed his punishment.

“He would miss on purpose,” Robert said. “He would purposefully try some ridiculously off-balance shot so he could start all over again. He would get to 17 or 18 and he would miss. He would turn around and say, ‘C’mon dad, snap it, snap it; your passes need to be harder.’”

Robert and Hallice share a tendency toward dedication. Robert loves his job; he loves ‘going to work in the morning’ before he gets to work. But Hallice is one of those guys you have to turn off the lights to get them to leave the gym, Robert said.

“I think [Hallice] has a greater passion [for basketball], than I do [for my work]. I’ve told him several times to just give it up,” Robert said.

The first time Robert told Hallice to hang up his sneakers was when Hallice was a freshman in high school and he played for all three teams at basketball powerhouse St. Anthony’s. Hallice played on the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams as a freshman.

That definitely caused a lot of wear and tear on his body, Robert said.


Coach Bob Hurley

“Going to St. Anthony’s you can’t have [a hot-head] kind of mentality. You won’t make it there,” Hallice said. “Coach Hurley is a demanding coach. He’s the best coach in America, I believe. Discipline-wise, he ran it like a college program. If you’re doing anything body-language-wise, he’s kicking you out of the gym.”

Hallice wore his passion for basketball reign over his emotions, and he wore his emotions on his sleeve.

He was asked to leave the gym a few times.

Hurley said he doesn’t remember any of these instances specifically because he’s kicked so many kids out of the gym. The worst thing he can do in the eyes of the players is take away their privilege of playing.

“When you do go out the door, it’s to get you to really look at what’s going on, whether it’s not being able to control your emotions or not being a good teammate,” Hurley said.

“With Hallice, he wanted to be successful so bad he was an emotional wreck at times as a young kid,” he said. “You could just see how things were going by the way he was carrying himself. During the course of time as we grow up, we mature. And he’s grown. I think now, when he plays, he’s very composed and has good control of his emotions.”

Hurley is unquestionably one of the top basketball coaches at any level in the nation. He’s won 27 New Jersey State championships, four national championships and he’s sent a multitude of players to Division-I basketball.

But none of those proved the key reason that Hallice ended up at St. Anthony’s. It was all about getting his emotions in check.

“That was the key to going to St. Anthony’s,” Robert said. “With Coach Hurley, it’s his way or the highway. There are no other options.”

Hallice bought in and got himself under control. The next thing he knew, St. Anthony’s set a New Jersey state record, winning 83 straight games.

Hurley helped Hallice get his emotions in check from the sidelines. But it was his “big bro,” Kyle Anderson, who helped him between the lines.


Kyle Anderson

“He just told me you’ve got to stay composed,” Hallice said. “Kyle’s not a guy who shows his emotions when he’s out there playing.”

Anderson, a first-round draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, plays with a lot of composure. He doesn’t let things rattle him. but sometimes he needs what Hallice has — that extra motivation.

The great part about being teammates is that players can feed off of each other. The fire that fueled Hallice helped Kyle get that extra edge, and the poise and patience that Kyle possessed was helpful to Hallice in learning how to control his passion.

While they were emotional opposites on the court, they both had the drive to be great. When they both are back in Union City, NJ, they will get back together with their old group of friends and go to the gym to play basketball.

However, when their other friends are playing pick-up games, they are in the gym to work and get better.

“They’re pretty much inseparable when they’re both home,” Robert said. “It’s kind of annoying some days, because I always will tell him, ‘What do you come here for? You didn’t come home to see your parents, you’ve been with Kyle the whole time.’”

The best part about Anderson, Hallice said, is that he hasn’t changed even though he left college early, was a first-round pick by the NBA champions and is making millions of dollars.

Robert said you’d think Anderson was still 13 or 14-years-old. Anderson pulled up to the Cookes’ house when Robert was walking the other direction, and Kyle yelled, “Mr. Cooke, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Cooke.” Robert turned around and said, “Heeeey.”

They exchanged a big smile and a big hug.

“This is the same kid that’s been coming back and forth all these years. You cannot tell this kid plays in the NBA.”

Except for the massive four-wheel-drive SUV he pulled up in. (sentence fragment) Anderson isn’t the only NBA influence Hallice has had in his life.

There was one more.


Darryl Dawkins

“I came out of the game for something, and I looked mad or angry,” Hallice said. “He came over and said, ‘Hey man,’ [and] put his arm around me. ‘You’re gonna be all right man. Stay patient and calm down. You gotta keep your cool; you never know who’s in the stands watching.’ That’s one thing that stuck with me, as well. He [was] always ready to help somebody.”

Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins died Aug. 27, 2015. The NBA great served Sports U, Hallice’s AAU program, as an ambassador, coach, mentor and anything else the program needed.

Dawkins saw that Hallice had a love and desire for basketball, but Hallice would get down on himself easily. Dawkins would crack a joke or tell a funny story to lift Hallice’s spirits again.

His calm nature was just the beginning of the influence the gentle giant had on the kids he was around.

He had a family at home, including a child with Down’s Syndrome (check spelling and use of apostrophe), yet he still found time to travel with the team and stay in “rinky dink” hotels in Little Rock, Ark., Robert said. Dawkins was probably the best thing to happen to Hallice, not so much mentoring Hallice as much as he calmed him down.

The second time Robert told Hallice to hang up his shoes was when he got the hip surgeries. The medical setback may have been a blessing in disguise, though, because Hallice was back in New Jersey rehabbing when he went to a high school basketball game.

That’s when he talked to Darryl Dawkins for the last time.

“Just being with Darryl, he had his kids with him, he was laughing, he had a funny outfit … just standing out,” Hallice said. “Just having the opportunity to be around Darryl again when I had the surgery; he was still the same guy. We just picked up right where we left off.

“I’m happy I got to share that last moment with him. That was the last time I got to see him and spend time with him, but I’m glad I got that to look back on — another moment when I was down, and he just picked me right up and made me laugh.”

Darryl Dawkins the basketball player was not as important as Darryl Dawkins the person, Hallice said. He was a positive energy who always had just the right story to tell.

“Just a beautiful person,” Hallice said.


Hallice Cooke

“I’m more than a basketball player,” Hallice said. “I use this as a platform to affect others lives just as others have affected my life. Kyle, for example. Darryl, they affected my life. Even without basketball, me and Kyle would be the best of friends.

“This year off without having basketball, it showed me who I really was and more than that.”

(Revisit why he missed the year. Sitting out due to transfer rules and the hips surgeries. I’d also find somewhere in the latter part of this story to talk about what he does best and what he’ll bring to the team/what he accomplished at Oregon State before transferring)

Hallice has two older siblings, his brother Jarryd-Skylar and his sister Krystal as well as a niece, Janae. The year off from basketball was hard for the whole family, but it gave Hallice time to reflect.

“He had this game that he loved so much taken away from him for the first time in his life for an extended period of time,” Robert said. “That was like, ‘What would I do if there was no more basketball?’ That thought hit him and it hit him hard.”

Hallice has come a long way from skipping a “supposed” girlfriend’s sweet 16 because he had a game the next day. He used the year off from basketball to grow as a person and as a family member.

Now when he’s home he will make himself available to people. He’ll help out a former coach at a basketball camp or he’ll play a heated game of monopoly with his family.

“When people ask me ‘Who are you?’ I’m not going to say Hallice Cooke, the basketball player,” Hallice said. “I’m Hallice Cooke, the uncle, brother, son. All those things matter just as much as basketball.”