At this time a year ago, Sandy Cohen’s dream of playing high-major college basketball at a Division I school was just that. A dream.
A Green Bay resident with nary a valuable scholarship offer, UW-Green Bay fans were debating whether Cohen should get a stronger look from coach Brian Wardle. That’s not completely accurate. North Dakota, a member of the Big Sky conference and a 248 ranking on Ken Pom, was the only school to have offered.
There was no denying Cohen’s athletic ability. A three-sport athlete, he was an All-Conference wide receiver for Seymour High School and a very good triple-jumper. But being athletic only takes you so far. Schools are littered with high-risers that can’t translate it onto the court.
The high school season came and went with a definite improvement in his game, but questions still lingered. Then AAU season for his team Playground Elite came around.
There may not have been a literal explosion in the cramped and sweaty AAU gyms around the midwest this spring and summer, but wherever Cohen went, fireworks were sure to follow.
“Going into this AAU season I only had one scholarship offer from a small school,” Cohen told Paint Touches. “Coming out of AAU I had over 15 scholarship offers, all high-major.”
Schools from Creighton to Minnesota to Virginia Tech came calling and asking for his services. But from the beginning, there was one school that Cohen envisioned in his future, the school he committed to on Saturday.
“It just feels amazing knowing that I’m going to a college that I’ve always wanted to go to since I was a little kid,” Cohen said of the Jesuit institution in Milwaukee. “It’s such a dream come true that I get to go to Marquette, a place I’ve wanted to go pretty much my whole life.”
As has been thoroughly documented, the only reason this story wasn’t running in April when Marquette offered was that his high school coach Jon Murphy told Cohen to wait until AAU season was over, an AAU season that saw an offer from Virginia and interest from Michigan State arise.
In between lighting up the AAU circuit, Cohen had time to win the Division II Wisconsin state championship in the triple jump, further emphasizing his athletic acumen to coaches everywhere.
No matter. Cohen had his sights set on Buzz Williams’ crew and wasn’t going to be swayed otherwise. The proximity to home and the “powerhouse” status were two aspects he highlighted as to what made Marquette his No. 1 destination.
And then there’s Buzz. There’s always Buzz.
“He’s awesome,” Cohen said. “I talk to coach Buzz pretty much every day. A call or text.”
Not to mention the whole family aspect Mark brilliantly described earlier this week.
“It feels like I’m at home, and that’s the place where I wanted to be.”
Cohen has made it down to Milwaukee on a few occasions and already has a rapport with some of the current players after playing against them. He also texts with fellow 2014 recruit Malek Harris and keeps up with 2015 commit Nick Noskowiak on Twitter.
What kind of a player is he, though? These highlight reels show monster dunks and 100 percent shooting from the field, but don’t tell you much else.
“I think I’m pretty versatile. I can shoot, pass or dribble,” Cohen said. “I can play any position from the one to the three, but I think my strongest attribute is how athletic I am. My slashing ability and being able to get to the rim.”
At 6-foot-5 and with tremendous bounce, Cohen’s driving ability is what has gotten him this far. He is listed as a shooting guard but played a lot of point in AAU next to one of the best shooting guards in the country in Rashad Vaughn.
At 180-pounds, though, there is plenty of filling out left to do in order to use that slashing ability at the next level.
“My physical strength, just getting my weight up and being stronger,” Cohen responded what asked what his biggest weakness was. “When you get stronger, everything becomes a lot easier.”
Ranked in the top-100 by all major outlets an slotting in at No. 75 in the 247 Composite Rankings, his potential is no longer hidden. He’ll have a year to bulk up and prepare to whittle a spot in a loaded backcourt.
It’s not all about basketball for Cohen, though.
“Marquette is a great school academically. Even if everything doesn’t work out in the basketball world I’ll be able to get a great job with a degree from Marquette. There’s more out there than basketball.”
With moves like those at the 37-second mark in the video below, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.