DELAND, Florida -- 2021 has been the year of Tasos Cook.
The hero of Westerville Central basketball made one final headline on Thursday when he committed to Division I Stetson.
"I ultimately chose Stetson because they really checked all of the boxes that I look for in choosing a school," Cook told 270 Hoops. "I feel Stetson is a place where I have the best opportunity to grow as a player, experience something new and achieve my goals of getting to the next level."
The reigning Division I District Player of the Year and key cog in a Warhawks team that fell just one game short of the first state championship in school history, Cook accomplished his dream of going to a Division I program.
One of few Division I commits in recent memory who was virtually unknown as an underclassman, Cook was relentless in his work ethic and preparation leading up to this point.
While it took awhile for his recruitment to blow up, Cook never wavered in his preparation. That led to an increase in perimeter skill and overall offensive efficiency, when matched with Cook's high-level physique, created quite the matchup nightmare that no teams had an answer for.
Cook dominated in his final two seasons of high school basketball, leading Westerville Central to their only two district titles in program history. The Warhawks had a chance to make back-to-back trips to the state tournament, however, the outbreak of COVID-19 ruined that chance in 2020.
Cook and Central made good on their promise to get further than the year before this past season, rolling to a No. 2 seed in the district, a share of an OCC title, a second-straight district title and an instant classic victory in the regional final that forever cemented the legacy of Tasos Cook.
With a handful of top-level Division II offers, Cook could have ended his recruitment early, however, the senior felt he was deserving of a Division I offer and held out. With the transfer portal booming and many programs opting for mature college players, high school players like Cook were put in a very difficult position in this recruiting cycle.
All of that changed for Cook on April 7 when Stetson became the first Division I program to offer the 6-foot-2 guard.
Bellarmine and NJIT followed shortly after, however, it came down to a battle between Atlantic Sun foes in Stetson and Bellarmine.
"I knew that patience was key and I knew that God has a plan for me," said Cook. "Everything happens for a reason and I put my trust in God to help me find the best opportunity and by waiting, the opportunity was shown."
Stetson was the first program to offer a Division I scholarship to DeSales senior Des Watson, one of Cook's best friends, more than a year ago. While the Hatters missed out on Watson, who committed to Davidson, they made good on Cook, as their willingness to offer when nobody else dared to clearly paid off.
"Stetson being the first school to offer me and taking that chance with me meant a lot," said Cook. "It definitely played a role in my decision because it also goes along with Coach (Donnie) Jones seeing something in me that others didn't."
Cook now moves on to a Stetson program that went 12-15 this past season but made its first postseason appearance in the College Basketball Invitational where they knocked off Bowling Green in the first round.
Head coach Donnie Jones is entering his third season leading the Hatters program and has done an outstanding job turning things around. The Hatters, after being picked to finish dead last in the Atlantic Sun in Jones' first season, surprised critics with 16 wins and a 9-7 record in league play.
"Their fast paced play style matches mine and I feel I can be that guy who will be able to get down hill, hit shots and make the players around me better while they are doing the same thing," said Cook.
Cook, who is no stranger to building a program from the ground up, will join a Stetson team that returns a large chunk of last year's roster. The Westerville Central senior will have a chance to see the floor early and help Stetson continue its climb in the ASun.
After developing quicker than arguably any prospect in the area over the course of the past two seasons, Cook knows he did not make it happen on his own.
In our interview with him, Cook told us that he wanted to thank God, his mom and dad, his trainer Jason Dawson, the coaching staff at Westerville Central, our staff at 270 Hoops and also the rest of his family, friends and teammates for helping him get to this point.
For the next four years, Cook will get to battle against childhood friends in the Atlantic Sun, with Worthington Christian's DJ Moore heading to Liberty and teammate Quincy Clark heading to Lipscomb.
"It will be great to play against guys that I have been playing with forever," said Cook. "It will be battles with both of them for sure."