North Texas

SMU Basketball Commit Returns to Hardwood 3 Weeks After Stroke

You could say it's been a wild month for 18-year-old Bryce Cook, but that would be putting it mildly. On Nov. 14, he fulfilled a dream, signing to play Division I basketball at SMU.

Two weeks later, he had a stroke.

Cook, an Arlington native, had just returned to Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas from a tournament in Duncanville when he collapsed on Nov. 25.

"I felt something was wrong, me and my teammate Jaylen just picked him up and took him upstairs and got him to medical like quick," said his teammate Austin Crowley, a shooting guard and Vanderbilt commit.

Cook's mother, Michele Cook, said she got the call around 8 that night that he was being rushed to the hospital with a paralyzed left side and slurred speech.

"On the drive up to Kansas it was like it was a bad dream," she said. "I was like, 'What? That's unbelievable.'"

She said she was shocked to see how quickly he bounced back, even laughing and dancing in his hospital gown.

Saturday, nearly three weeks after the medical emergency, the point guard made the trip to the ARS Rescue Rooter National Hoopfest in North Texas. He hit the hardwood for team warmups, but wasn't playing. He came to sit on the bench and root on the very players who helped save him.

"Just cheer my brothers on, give them energy. Same thing I do on the court I'm gonna do off the court," Bryce Cook said.

"I selfishly wish he was playing, but at the end of the day he's healthy and that's what matters," said Luke Barnwell, Sunrise Christian Academy's head basketball coach.

Crowley, one of three teammates who rescued Cook within minutes of his stroke, said he doesn't consider himself a hero. He said he was just looking out for the friend he considers a brother.

"He's small, but his voice is so big, so he's one of the biggest leaders for us so we feel like with him, anything is possible," Crowley said.

Cook is still on the mend.

"He's still the same Bryce, the same laughing Bryce the one joking all around. Still the same to me," Crowley said.

But don't count him out, Cook said he's ready to get back in the game.

"A lot of people was telling me I wasn't going to play DI. They said I was too short, I wasn't good enough. I proved everybody wrong and that's what I'm still doing to this day," Cook said. "I may come back from this normal, I may not, but at the end of the day I'm just thankful to be alive."

After the stroke, doctors discovered that Cook has a heart murmer and pea-sized hole in his chest. He's having surgery to repair that on Tuesday. They're still running tests to figure out why the stroke happened, but doctors are hopeful he can be back on the court in six weeks. No matter what happens, his family said SMU's head coach assured them that Cook can keep his scholarship even if he's unable to play.

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