Sydney determined to make Cooks' send-off fit for King
Even when they were teenagers, Angus Glover knew Xavier Cooks was a special basketball talent.
The Sydney Kings teammates go way back to Holy Spirit College in Wollongong's northern suburbs, where they won a national championship.
"He would have been 16 or 17, and I would have been 14," Glover said.
"It was a long time ago."
Both would go on to forge professional careers and now have the chance to win their second NBL title together when the Kings meet the New Zealand Breakers in the decisive fifth game of the championship series.
Wednesday's contest marks only the fifth time the championship series has been taken to a fifth game, and the first since the 2017-18 season.
For Cooks, the clash at Qudos Bank Arena heralds the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next. The 27-year-old forward will pack his bags and move to the USA a matter of days after the game.
There, he'll join the Washington Wizards and become the 11th Australian playing in the ongoing NBA season.
Cooks has held the NBA dream close to his heart since before he and Glover were dominating the paint for Holy Spirit. But even by that stage, the young Cooks' potential was clear.
"We always saw it," Glover said.
"Just his athleticism, his size, his length. He was special to watch back then but even more special now."
After stints playing college basketball at Winthrop University and professionally in Europe, Cooks returned to Australia, where his path again crossed Glover's.
The pair became reacquainted at the Kings in late 2020 while Glover was recovering from the third ACL injury of his young career.
"He had his foot injury and I had my knee injury," Glover recalled.
"We just played one-on-one for an hour pretty much every day, whilst we were trying to get back to playing."
The hard work paid off - the pair were crucial members of the Kings' championship defeat of the Tasmania JackJumpers last season.
If they can beat the Breakers on Wednesday, the Wollongong teenagers-turned-basketball stars will add another trophy to the case.
"It's surreal," Glover said.
"It's do or die for both teams. We're going to have that dog mentality but I'm sure they will too.
"To have the opportunity to play in game five of an NBL grand final series is something you grow up wanting to do."
After Wednesday night, Glover and Cooks' paths will diverge once again but the Kings are determined to send Cooks off to the NBA with a spring in his step.
"It's going to be sad for sure," Glover said.
"I've got plenty of memories with Xav, obviously.
"We want to go out there and get the job done and worry about that after the game. We want to send him out on a high."