Daequan Cook was considered by many Buckeye fans to be a spare part on the machine that was the 2006-'07 Ohio State men's basketball team, which fell to Florida in the national championship game.
As much they wanted star freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. for an encore, they didn't begrudge the center and the point guard the chance to enter the NBA Draft after only one season in Columbus.
But for Cook, a first-year guard who averaged 9.8 points and 4.3 rebounds while earning the Big Ten's Sixth Man award, the thinking had it that he was not ready to turn pro.
He did anyway and went to Philadelphia with the 21st pick to become the third Buckeye behind Oden (first overall) and Conley (fourth) to be chosen in the first round. (Cook was immediately dealt to the Miami Heat.)
If it's any consolation to OSU backers, Cook also wonders what might have been if the trio had followed OSU's 35-4 record with a sophomore season that would have included incoming freshmen Evan Turner, Jon Diebler and Kosta Koufos.
"Me, Mike and Greg always talk about if we had stayed at Ohio State another year would we have an opportunity to win a national championship," Cook says. "But at the end of the day we made decisions we don't regret."
For a few days every off-season, Cook, Conley and Oden reunite at the Buckeye Stars youth basketball camp at Worthington Kilbourne High School. (Oden missed this year's sessions because of a death in the family.)
"It's a good way to give back to the community," Conley says.
Cook was in the middle of a hectic summer after being dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder on June 23 and arrived the last week in July after a whirlwind media tour in his new city.
He enjoys the chance to renew his friendships away from the pressures of the NBA. "We were brothers before we got to Ohio State," he says of Conley and Oden. "We always keep in contact when we come to each other's cities."
Cook, a standout at Dayton Dunbar High School, had as much fun as anyone at the camp. He marveled at a skinny kid, who barely came up to his knees, dropping two straight three-pointers, and during a scrimmage with the children, he playfully bear-hugged awestruck campers to prevent them from scoring.
"It's a chance to teach and also just to see a bright smile on a kid's face," Cook says. "It's a good opportunity to be on the floor with them, sweat with them and laugh and joke with them all day."
He may yet have the last laugh on his skeptics.
While none of the three Buckeyes have excelled post-OSU-Conley is trying to hang on to a starting spot with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oden has played just 82 games in an injury-plagued three seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers-Cook (eight points per game in his NBA career) may outshine them with the up-and-coming Thunder.
"I felt great" about the trade, he says. "I was put in an opportunity where I can show off my talent again."