Cece Hooks didn’t intentionally start her basketball career at 9 years old. She was simply shooting around after her brother’s Amateur Athletic Union game when a coach asked to put her on the team. Hooks wasn’t the best player on the team when she first started, but she had spunk and an inkling of talent.
Now, she’s the all-time leading scorer of the Mid-American Conference.
The Dayton native got her competitive drive from playing with her brother. They often played pickup basketball together across the street from their aunt’s house or up the road from their home at Princeton Park. No matter the day, the two would compete against each other as if it were a high-stakes game.
“It was always a competition between me and my brother,” Hooks said. “I think that's where I got that mentality to be very competitive.”
As Hooks developed her playstyle, she noticed it was easier for her to shoot with her left hand despite it being her nondominant hand. Her brother tried to steer her away from doing so, but the habit stuck. Hooks had to put in extra work on her left hand layup, but it helped develop her work ethic.
If there’s one player who can be found at an open gym, it’s Hooks. She doesn’t shy away from extra practice, almost to the point where she over practices. Hooks admits she can get in her own head if she practices too many free throws. She is so driven to succeed that, sometimes, she puts too much pressure on herself.
However, her drive is what keeps her going — along with a phone call from her brother. The sweet notion keeps Hooks at ease when her nerves are running rampant. They talk over opponents like they’re back at the park, and it keeps Hooks grounded.
It was Hooks’ family who got her into basketball. The sport that began as an experiment ended up opening doors for her. She became the first person in her family to graduate from college in spring 2021. Hooks was determined to finish her education for her family.
“(I) just (wanted) to make everyone in my family proud because I know what I am capable of,” Hooks said.
Hooks has shown more than her family what she is capable of, though. In her five seasons with Ohio, she has stunned crowds with her abilities on the court. They’ve earned her three MAC Defensive Player of the Year awards, a MAC Player of the Year award and the MAC Freshman of the Year in her debut season.
The guard declared for the WNBA draft in spring 2021 but opted out before the deadline. She wanted to come back to Ohio and improve upon herself with her extra year of eligibility.
Her fifth year brought on her two greatest accomplishments. The first came Jan. 15, when she broke Ohio’s all-time scoring record, previously held by Caroline Mast Daugherty.
Mast Daugherty’s record was impressive in itself. She scored 2,449 points from 1982-1986 and was the first MAC player to score over 2,000 points and have over 1,000 rebounds.
Hooks and Mast Daugherty have consistently traded spots in the record books, but there is one thing on the court they share: they both like to shoot from the inside.
“I was an inside player,” Mast Daugherty said. “My favorite thing was rebounding, so I got a lot of close shots.”
Hooks and Mast Daugherty have had similar careers at Ohio. Both broke onto the scene as freshmen and never looked back. Hooks was the first Ohio athlete to win Player of the Year since Mast Daugherty in 1986. The MAC was their domain, and they both own their rightful place in the history books.
All in all, the parallels between the two are uncanny. They were both brought into basketball by their family, and it created a space for them to shine.
“They’re both very shy. They’re both very humble. They both want to win,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “They score because their team needed them to score, and they were both good at it. It’s hard to process the magnitude of the whole thing.”
Mast Daugherty was in attendance when Hooks broke the MAC all-time scoring record against Bowling Green on Saturday. It was the same day she passed the Ohio all-time leading scorer ball down to Hooks in a ceremony before the game. In the moment the ball was passed down, the two celebrated the passing of the mantle.
Hooks’ teammates showered her in hugs, but Hooks remained locked in on the game.
She reacted that way when she broke the MAC record, too. As Hooks jogged to the other side of the court, she wasn’t aware she had made history. The same outpour of affection followed, and once again, Hooks stayed focused on the game.
“My teammates always tell me I should celebrate more,” Hooks said. “But that’s just not who I am.”
Hooks will flash the largest smile on the court, but her focus is with the Bobcats come game time. There’s not many negative things to be said about Hooks as a teammate. Whatever her team needs, she’ll do. Whether it is a quick steal or a game-winning basket, Ohio can count on her.
She’s the all-time leading scorer for the Mid-American Conference, she’s the all-time leading scorer in Ohio history and she has the most steals in Ohio history.
But she’s more than her records. She’s Cece Hooks.