December 4, 1980 - Brian Cook was born in Lincoln, Illinois. Happy 38th Birthday Brian Cook! Cook played 132 games in four years for the University of Illinois, most of them under coach Bill Self, and led the Illini in rebounding in each season. Cook was a versatile scorer from both inside and outside the paint, utilizing his height to score in the post and hitting three-point shots when left open. This helped him to earn co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors during his freshman year at Illinois.
Cook helped lead the Illini to a number one seed in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, and the Illini cruised to the Elite 8, where they were upset in a hard fought and controversial game by Cook's future teammate Luke Walton and the Arizona Wildcats. As a senior in the 2002–03 season, Cook led the Fighting Illini in scoring with 20.0 points per game, and received the Chicago Tribune Silver Basketball as the Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten Conference. That same season, Cook was named second team All-American by The Sporting News, and third team All-American by the Associated Press, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and The Basketball Times, as well as Big Ten Player of the Year and first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. Cook left Illinois as the school's third all-time leading scorer with 1,748 total points, at an average of 13.2 points per game, behind Deon Thomas and Kiwane Garris.