Follow the leader

Nolan Smith and Quinn Cook won't play college basketball at Duke together. Smith graduates this spring and Cook enrolls next fall.

However, their careers and, to an extent, their lives are intertwined given their paths in life and basketball.

Cook's commitment to Duke follows neatly in line with Smith and his career. They hail from the same regional corridor, ran with the same traveling team (D.C. Assault), finished out their high school careers at the same school (Oak Hill in Mouth of Wilson, Va.), eventually attended the same college and both lost their fathers too early in their lives.

"I helped Quinn a lot with the loss of his father, Uncle Ted," Smith said. "Quinn needed a big brother at the time, and I knew that with my experiences with losing a father I could really be there for him and I was. I told him to use the gym as an escape and he did. This made our relationship like brothers which it is now."

Cook began his high school career at Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic. Last summer, he made the decision to attend Oak Hill, the program Smith finished his high school career with.

"They're different personality-wise," Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said. "They are really close to their moms. They went through the same things with their dad passing away, that's when they got really close. Nolan is several years older but Quinn looks up to him.

"Nolan's the reason he ended up at Duke. For him to go to Duke, it fits a pattern."

Cook's been locked in on Duke and UCLA for the last few weeks. Villanova was also in the mix, but Cook cancelled his official visit. He cracked open the door for North Carolina but just as Roy Williams was set to make the three and a half hour trip to see him on Tuesday, Cook expressed to UNC that he was ready to make a decision and saved Williams the trouble of visiting.

"[Coach Mike Krzyzewski] doesn't recruit anybody, so the people that he recruits have got to be special," Cook said.

Next spring, Duke loses Smith, a young man who meant a ton to the program. Cook won't be far behind and he'll follow Smith's lead. He's done it before.

Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at espndt@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.