York's Cohn was 'The superstar without the ego'
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The rail-thin freshman drove into a lane filled with senior giants.
Fearless, though many thought foolish, he lofted a shot just over the outstretched arms of a soon-to-be Division I college basketball player. Through the hoop went the first 2 points of David Cohn's time at York.
Forgive Cohn if he doesn't remember all of his 1,600 points with the Dukes. The four years have flown by too quickly for the memory to keep up.
At times the flight drifted into the unknown, much like that first shot. Through it all Cohn leaned on rare talent and an unwavering drive to be the best at the sport he loves.
While so much changed around him, Cohn remained steadfast in his desire to compete at the highest levels. His leadership stood as one of the few consistencies with York's basketball program during the last four years of constant shifts in the coaching staff.
At times he facilitated the accomplishments of others. Mostly, his talents facilitated the accomplishments of the team. He simply delivered on whatever was asked of him.
"I wouldn't be near the player I am today without my coaches and teammates," Cohn said. "They've meant the world to me."
With a combination of single-season dominance and four-year excellence, York's David Cohn is the 2012-13 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Boys Basketball Captain.
"He's made the ultimate commitment to basketball," said York coach Vince Doran. "He's the superstar without the ego."
When Doran left Hinsdale South's program last spring to take the reins at York, his immediate goal was to familiarize himself with the program. That meant familiarizing himself with Cohn, who at the time was weighing his options among nearly 20 Division I scholarship offers.
"Right away I wanted to reach out to him, and we had a great conversation on the phone," Doran said. "I just wanted to let him know we were going to stay headed in the right direction."
Definitely the right direction.
With Cohn, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, the consensus go-to guy for a second straight year, York won its Thanksgiving and holiday tournaments while forging a second straight 20-win season.
After finishing tied for second in the West Suburban Silver, last week the Dukes won their first regional title since 2006. They entered Thursday's Class 4A Schaumburg sectional semifinal showdown against Silver rival Oak Park with the opportunity to claim the program's first sectional crown since 1982.
Cohn has led the way by averaging 17.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists a game. He enters sectional play with 1,600 varsity points on the button, 55 points shy of the program record held by former teammate and 2011 graduate Will Sullivan, who now plays at Miami of Ohio.
Following in the footsteps of Sullivan, whom Cohn considers a mentor for the two years they spent as York's starting backcourt, Cohn will continue playing at Colorado State University.
Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy will be Cohn's fifth coach in five seasons. That doesn't include Mike Mullins, Cohn's AAU coach with the Illinois Wolves.
"At times it's felt a little choppy, the transitions between different coaches," Cohn said. "It's definitely been interesting."
Cohn's varsity tenure at York began freshman year under the tutelage of Al Biancalana, who left after that season to become an assistant coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Biancalana's York assistant, Dominic Cannon, coached during Cohn's sophomore year but left after that one season at the helm.
Cohn's junior season — his best statistically with 19.2 points a game and 81 3-pointers — was headed by former Gordon Tech and DePaul standout Tom Kleinschmidt. Again, though, Kleinschmidt stepped down after one season to coach at Gordon Tech.
The whirlwind came to an end with Doran's arrival. Unlike Cohn's previous three coaches, however, Doran brought in a new playing system. Instead of the wide-open offense of the year before, Doran instilled a more controlled half-court style that took better advantage of the 6-7 tandem of Frank Toohey and Justin Kurash.
"This year he's shown he'll do what's needed to help the team," said Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder. "He'll defer to the big guys or he'll score if they need him to. It just shows he's more interested in winning than he is about his stats."
There's no doubt Cohn's abilities helped him adapt through the years. This season, challenging as it's been, was no different.
Cohn describes his style of play as a fast-paced, "get the ball and go" kind of basketball. His incredible speed with the ball attests to his ability to thrive in the open court.
Cohn's shooting skill is obvious from the number of 3-pointers he's made. His immense time at point guard, meanwhile, showcases his passing prowess. Cohn's rebounding is underrated.
He utilized it all this senior year in what he calls his most successful season. Even if it took some effort growing accustomed to a new coach and a new style.
"As the season went on I wouldn't say we butted heads, but there were some discussions about getting on the same page," Cohn said. "I have a lot of respect for coach Doran, he's been around the game a long time. I'll do whatever I have to do to win games."
While Cohn wishes he could have enjoyed the same coach for all four years at York, he focuses on the bright side. He's been able to take a little bit of everyone's coaching philosophy and carry it with him through the choppy journey.
York basketball, and his place in leaving a lasting legacy, always stood as Cohn's rock of stability.
"He's always been able to score, but he's matured on all levels," said Toohey, a junior who also has played on varsity since his freshman year. "This year he's been able to show everything he can do on the court, not just scoring. We've all had our growing pains this season, but it's made us a better team because of it."
It's made Cohn a better player.
He's grown just an inch in height since lofting that floater three years ago as a freshman, but his court sense and maturity level have blossomed tremendously.
"Sometimes you see kids that are great athletes, they think they're better than everyone else," Doran said. "He's been brought up to be very respectful of everyone."
Four years, four coaches. Four experiences molding him into the player and person he is today.
Sixteen hundred points later, Cohn just shakes his head.
"I've played over 120 games as a York Duke," he said. "I've been really lucky to be around my coaches, my parents and especially my teammates all this time. It's kind of scary to think it coming to an end here."
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