At first, Jerell Cooke thought he might want to leave Baltimore for college. The Randallstown senior was recruited mostly by junior colleges, so he was preparing himself for a life away from home.
Then Morgan State came calling.
"After the … county championship, the [Morgan State] coach called my [high school] coach," Cooke said. "Morgan was looking to offer me and they wanted to recruit me. [I told my coach], 'Yeah, I like that.' [He said], 'Yeah, me too.'"
Cooke committed to the Bears last month, ensuring that his family and friends will be able to see him play in college. The 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard will redshirt his freshman year and then have four years of eligibility to play for the Bears.
"I can sit out, get better, get bigger, work on my game and then come back," Cooke said.
A three-year varsity player, Cooke led Baltimore County in scoring as a senior with 22.3 points per game, in addition to averaging 5.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.1 steals. A Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection, Cooke guided Randallstown to the Baltimore County championship.
At Morgan, where he'll play the 2 and the 3, Cooke will become the latest in a long line of Baltimore-area basketball stars to suit up for Todd Bozeman. The 2013-14 Bears roster featured four local products: sophomore point guard Donte Pretlow (Dunbar), freshman forward Kyle Thomas (Milford Mill), sophomore forward Cedric Blossom (Columbia native), and sophomore forward Willis Turnipseed (City).
"I know that last year, this season just past, they lost a game [against North Carolina Central in the MEAC title game that would've sent Morgan] to the NCAA tournament," Cooke said. "They've got a nice school spirit – the [students] come to the games and support you."
Cooke said he's looking forward to taking on a scoring role for the Bears once he's eligible to play at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.
Morgan State fans "can expect a good student, no trouble out of me," Cooke said. "And [I'll] work hard for the team and get them over the hump to the NCAA tournament."