"When I was 16 I sat down with my brothers and we had a long conversation about what we wanted to do with our lives. That day I told them I wanted to be the best basketball player to ever play. I really meant it. The countless hours I have put into the sport and the mental and physical stress I have put on my body was all to prepare me to reach my goal of being legendary. Every time I talk to Lamont Lampkins he tells me “good is the enemy of greatness.” So when I go to the gym and work on my game I’m not preparing for players that are good. I am not preparing for players that are ok or are all stars. I am preparing for the best of the best because that’s what I want to be. So I know I am ready to compete on that level. " - Darian Hooker
Professional basketball teams invest a LOT of money into scouting, sending scouts all over the world to evaluate prospects from all levels. Evaluating correctly and consistently can be the difference between being in the lottery every year or contending for championships, history has shown that. However, even with the advancement in scouting, there are still a lot of players that go under the radar that emerge as stars on the pro level and keep GM's and front office personel on their toes. Those underrated players are not just solely found on the Division I level, they are found all throughout college basketball levels, Division II, Division III, NAIA, names like Charles Oakley (Virginia Union- DII), Ben Wallace (Virginia Union-DII), Scottie Pippen ( Central Arkansas-NAIA) etc are just some of the players who emerged as stars in the NBA after being an almost afterthought in college. New York Institute of Technology senior point guard Darian Hooker may find himself in that group at the rate he is going right now. Hooker was the leading scorer in Division II averaging 28.3 points and 4.8 assist per game for the Bears. Deadly from 30 feet in, elite ball handling, great vision combined with top notch speed and quickness enables Hooker to get wherever he wants on the basketball court. He has every skill needed to thrive on the pro level. Add in a tireless work ethic and you possibly have a impact player in the making at the next level. I recently caught up with Hooker (in between his multiple daily workouts and classes) to talk about his journey on and off the court, who influenced his game and if he honestly feels he can make an impact on the NBA level if given the opportunity.
FM- When were you introduced to basketball?
DH - I started playing basketball around 5 or 6. My parents always had me doing something. Whether it was basketball, baseball, or soccer. It didn’t matter. Me and my brothers was always outside doing something.
FM- Growing up who were the players you patterned your game after?
DH- Allen Iverson. I watched him back at Georgetown and found a way to get footage of all of his NBA games. I always watched him and would take my ball to the gym or the court outside and practice doing everything that he did the night before in his game.
When I was 15 I met a guy named Jamar Board. You probably know him by the name Silent Assassin. Not too long after I met him he brought me to workout with him and I have been studying him ever since that day. R.I.P. So those two are the players who I steal the most moves from.
FM- Talk about the teams (boys & girls, AAU) you played for and how they helped your development?
DH- I played on a team called the Bolling Ballers from the age of 8 through 11 or 12. I was coached by Coach Chubs, Coach Wilson, Coach Rico and my dad. They did everything they could to teach me the fundamentals when I was young. But I didn’t want to hear any of it. I was all about the AND1 mixtapes. I was terrible at everything except dribbling. But I could dribble the hell out of a basketball. But when I stopped playing for them after 6th grade. Going into my 7th grade year my dad sat me down and really talked to me about how the fundamentals of the game are needed in order to be successful. He knew I was all about winning, and I wanted to be the best at whatever I did. So he took me to a gym and showed me all of the basics of the game, but also allowed me to do what I knew I could do with a basketball. That was being creative. What my dad taught me was that as long as I practice something in a gym, I should never be shy about doing that same move or taking that same shot during a game.
When I played at Maret I had a good freshman and sophomore year. That’s when people began to say “You are good but you aren’t playing against the toughest competition.” I thought that I could. So my parents and, lifelong personal trainer, Lamont Lampkins decided that I
should go play with the AAU team DC Assault. During that one summer it showed me that I wasn't as good as I thought I was. But it also showed me that I can be just as good or better then everyone on that team. Those players was not doing anything that I couldn’t do. They was just used to playing at a higher level. So that summer I knew what I had to do to be where I wanted to be. I worked hard the entire summer. I came back to school the following year and my high school career really took off from there. That experience just helped prove to myself even more that I can compete on a court with anyone.
FM- You had a very good high school career at Maret speak on the high school journey?
DH- Coming into high school not too many people knew who I was. But my freshmen year was pretty good. I started a lot of games and performed pretty well and began to get some attention around the league as someone who could be a very good player. However, me and my coach, the legendary Butch McAdams, could never see eye to eye. Majority of the reason being my immaturity. Me and him both knew I could be something special on the court. However, I wanted to play the way I knew how to play and
he wanted to show me how I can bring my game to the next level. I wasn’t trying to hear what he had to say because it was working at Maret against my high school competition. So until I went to DC Assault the following summer and was shown the level of basketball that would have to be played in order to be great I never really reached my potential. Going into my junior year I knew that I could do anything on the court to anybody. I was pretty much unstoppable for my entire junior and senior year in high school.
FM- After high school you went the prep school and JUCO route before landing at Campbell. As a 25 ppg scorer and honorable mention all met why weren't more schools paying attention?
DH- I can only recall one school showing any interest. During my freshman year of high school my coach, Butch Mcadams, got a voicemail from NC State. That’s all the interest I received in high school. Throughout high school basketball was never the problem that stopped me from being recruited. I never really put too much effort into school. I had like a 2.5 GPA. I also had a reputation of being a troubled kid. I was always a good kid. I just had a lot of built up anger inside me. I lost two friends in the 9/11 terrorist attack when I was young and that was always on my mind. I also lost three friends to gun violence in the summer going into 10th grade. I walked around with all of that on my mind all the time. I wanted to make sure that none of that ever happened to me or my family and it was stressful. I put myself in a lot of dangerous and violent situations that could have easily changed my life for the worst. Once word got out about some of these problems it was tough for me to get rid of that label. My prep school coach Jason Coulombe really helped me a lot with my issues though and showed me that I have people here who really care about me and are trying to help. But in order for them to help me I have to let them in and give people chances. He was a big part of my maturation process and it helped me a lot when I went into Junior College. In JUCO I don’t really know why I did not have any interest. That remains a mystery to me until this day. I was going to work in JUCO.
Note - The entire story on Darian Hooker will be in the upcoming issue of Finest Magazine 9 coming early June.
Hooker NYIT Highlights
Hooker Campbell (Division I) Highlights