LINCOLN, ILL. Former Kansas University basketball player Norm Cook, a first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1976, died Monday at the age of 53.
Cook, who had an apartment in Springfield, Ill., died at Lincoln Memorial Medical Center. The cause of death has not been determined, the Springfield State Journal reports.
Cook was haunted by bouts with mental illness, relatives said in an article published in the Lincoln (Ill.) Courier in 2007.
Cook’s son, Brian, played at the University of Illinois under current Kansas coach Bill Self.
Brian Cook is currently a forward for the Orlando Magic.
Norm Cook played at Kansas from 1973-76. He went 10-for-10 from the field in his first game as a Jayhawk, and wound up starting every game for a team that advanced to the 1974 NCAA Final Four.
He averaged 11.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and was named the Big Eight Conference’s Freshman of the Year.
In the summer of 1975, Cook was selected to participate in the Pan American Games. As a junior at KU, Cook was a team co-captain and named to the All-Big Eight Conference team. Following that season, he petitioned the NCAA to allow him to enter the draft, becoming the first Kansas player to leave school early for the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain.
As a rookie in Boston during the 1976-77 season, Cook received limited playing time on a talented Boston squad that included Celtics greats JoJo White, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens. In 25 games, he averaged 2.5 points and 1.1 rebounds.
Cook signed a three-year deal after being drafted, but the second year of the contract was not guaranteed and he was cut by the team.
Cook played in two games for the Denver Nuggets in the 1977-78 season, his last as a professional. He eventually returned to his hometown of Lincoln.
A celebration of Cook’s life will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Second Baptist Church in Lincoln. A time of visitation will be held at the church one hour prior to the service. Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 29 at New Union Cemetery in Lincoln.