Hampton grad Harper Cook joins American U soccer

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Thursday, June 27, 2019 | 6:49 PM


Perhaps four years from now, Harper Cook will understand the reason he will be spending his college years in Washington, D.C., instead of New Jersey.

Cook, the only Division I recruit of Hampton boys soccer coach Matt McAwley’s six-year tenure, had committed to Rutgers. But when the Scarlet Knights coaching staff turned over, his plans changed.

“That kind of left my position up in the air along with the previous commits,” Cook said.

The new coach, Jim McElderry, who was brought in from Fordham, didn’t have contact with Cook until January, when he informed him most of the recruits wouldn’t be in the team’s future plans.

“We were always hopeful that the position was going to stay there,” said Cook, noting the assistant who recruited him stayed on the staff. “At first it hurt a lot. I put a lot of effort in the recruiting process.”

Cook said getting recruited from the Pittsburgh area was difficult. So he spent his early high school years traveling to and from Columbus weekly to play at the Columbus Crew Academy for more visibility.

“I felt like I got stabbed in the back going through all of it and then having to de-commit,” he said. “It was a roller coaster of emotions for sure. But I’m really happy with the situation I’m in now.”

After the forced de-commit, he visited Pitt and looked into Colgate, Lafayette and St. John’s, then visited American.

“(St. John’s) is in New York City, and they have a really good program. But at American I just felt a lot better. This place is where I want to spend the next four years. My biggest fear was that I would be settling for a school after having to re-commit.”

Cook considered a gap year to find a school to his liking in 2020 but discussed with his family and decided against it.

“After a little while, I think we were pretty comfortable with it,” he said. “The goal was to go to college this year.”

One visit to American had Cook convinced.

“The campus is beautiful. I met coach (Jack Samol and Mike Montross), and they took me on campus. I got to watch last year’s team practice. It made me feel comfortable,” Cook said. “A relationship with the coaches and the team was really high on my list of importance.”

Samol was hired recently after spending 13 years at Georgetown, where he won three Big East championships and had an appearance in the 2012 NCAA championship game.

“It’ll be fun trying to re-build this program,” said Cook, who will major in computer science. “And I’ve always loved D.C. … Spending four years for college there sounds like something I’d really like to do.”

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