DJ Premo is in some kind of zone.
He’s looking down on the court at Koch Arena, from a small soundstage halfway up in the bleachers as undefeated Wichita State warms up before Tuesday night’s game against Southern Illinois. And he’s spinning tracks.
Beyonce. Kanye West. Jackson 5. Lorde. Lil Jon. Mix in a little Diddy. Throw in some Jay-Z.
He starts to pump his right fist. People in the crowd, still an hour from tip-off, bob their heads with the music. He turns his black-on-black WSU hat backward.
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“This is where I want to be, this is where it all started for me,” said Premo, whose real name is Thomas Cook Jr. “I think people, for years, underestimated this team. I can relate to that.”
Cook, 28, was at Koch for his first – but he hopes not last – appearance as WSU’s pregame disc jockey, churning out a hip-hop mix for the fans and the Shockers as they filter into the arena. He plays a 60- to 90-minute set that lasts until the WSU band starts playing 45 minutes before tip-off.
He was discovered by WSU manager of player development Devon Smith on a night Cook was the DJ at Revolution Rock Bar. But Cook’s connection to the Shockers goes back a little further – and is a little deeper – than that chance meeting.
“A couple of years ago I was working, serving food at Koch in the Champions Club during a Shocker game, and I could just feel the energy coming off the place,” said Cook, a Wichita East High graduate. “I’ve never been a sports fan, really, or had a team … but I just connected with them that night.
“The way the fans responded to the team, the way the team responded to the fans. It was special. It changed a lot for me, in my head.”
So Cook had a team. And he had a plan. He went home that night and wrote his first of two Shocker-themed songs – “ The Shockers Anthem” – and set about finding a way to make music his full-time job.
“There was a time for me where it was always like, ‘I’ll give this a shot in the future,’ or ‘One day I’ll really do this,’ ” Cook said. “But after that day, I decided that I needed to put everything into it. I needed to invest in what I wanted my future to be.”
And he made it work – being a DJ is his full-time job now. He’s the regular DJ on Saturday nights at Rocco’s Sports Bar, and he wrote a new WSU-themed song called “ Shocker Nation” that was released in November. WSU point guard Fred VanVleet introduced “The Shockers Anthem” several weeks ago on 96.3-FM.
He made a mix tape for Smith after their meeting, who brought it to WSU, and that’s how he got the DJ gig on Tuesday. He said he would love to do more Shocker home games in the future, but that’s a decision left up to WSU’s marketing staff, coach Gregg Marshall and his assistant coaches.
“Adding a DJ was just another opportunity to enhance the fan experience at Koch Arena,” said John Brewer, WSU’s associate athletic director of marketing and strategic communications. “We felt like it was something our student-athletes could appreciate and it was an idea spawned collectively from our coaching staff and our marketing department.
“With Premo, we have someone that is not only a Shocker fan, someone who has written songs about the Shockers, but someone who knows what to play to get our team jacked up before games and songs that fit with Koch Arena. We’re looking to keep the relationship going.”
And it all started that day two years ago at Koch Arena.
“I’m just so excited to be here,” Cook said at the start of his set. “A lot of hard work went into it.”
“I love this team and how they play. People slept on them for a long time and now they’re showing the entire nation what they can do.”