Time will tell as to whether the middle and ending are similar, but Erika Cook has chosen to start her college years the same way she started her high school years — in Portales, alongside Laci Lee and Ashley Golden.
Cook has signed on with Eastern New Mexico University to play basketball, where she will be reunited with her former Portales High teammates.
Cook, who helped Portales win five Class 3A state titles (three basketball, two volleyball) knows she is starting all over with the Zias.
“It’s going to be hard to leave (Portales High) just because I’ve been with this program since forever,” Cook said. “I’m excited about playing with new people, but it will be hard.”
Cook, who averaged 13 points during her senior season, formed a three-guard combination with Roni Gomez and Kassandra Richards that proved to be too much for the rest of Class 3A over the last two seasons.
“Her and the other two have gotten (a title streak) started and it will be really hard to fill all the positions,” Portales coach Brenda Gomez said. “It’s been a real luxury to begin every season with great shooters and a ball-handler.”
Cook was also part of the 2002 state runnerup team and the 2001 championship team, which featured Lee and Golden. Their presence with the Zias was one more reason for Cook to sign with the hometown Division-II school.
“I just felt more comfortable here,” Cook said. “I’ve always been acquainted with the coach and I’m just looking forward to playing with Laci and Ashley again.”
The Zia coaches felt comfortable with Cook as well. Zia assistant Dustin Klafka said that with Cook and Odessa College transfer guard Ashley Davidson, the team is “one puzzle piece away” from having a great recruiting season.
“One of the biggest assets is that Erika plays the game with a lot of heart,” said Zia assistant Dustin Klafka. “There wasn’t ever a time in her career at Portales High School that she didn’t play hard or didn’t fight.
“Another great thing about Erika is that she shoots the ball so well. An open shot in college is like an open shot in high school. She’s got to get it off a little quicker now.”
Zia coach Dan Buzard was on a recruiting trip Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
At the shooting guard position, the 5-foot-4 Cook will likely compete for playing time with Lee. Buzard and Klafka went into the offseason looking to build depth at every position — injuries to Lee and Jereena Bosket in the final weekend of the regular season became a deathblow for the Zias (16-12) in the Lone Star Conference playoffs.
“It’s a good situation with Erika that she has seniors ahead of her that are veteran players she can learn from,” Klafka said. “She plays against somebody good every day, and that will make her better.”
Cook is a similar player to Heather Brown, the LSC South Division Freshman of the Year, but will not likely compete for playing time at point guard with Brown. In any case, Cook knows no spot will be handed to her.
“I’m just going to work hard. (Brown) earned her spot, that’s for sure,” Cook said. “I’m going to try to work hard and just get a spot for myself.”