WILLIAMSBURG – The William and Mary men's basketball coaching staff likes to kid David Cohn he made the wrong decision coming out of high school.
Cohn says the same thing, only he isn't joking when the words leave his mouth.
The 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore point guard, a Chicago-area native, opted to attend Colorado State over William and Mary as a high school senior.
Cohn, off to a sizzling start to the Colonial Athletic Association ledger with the Tribe, called his own decision "superficial."
"I wanted to tell my friends I'm going high-major, I'm going (to the Mountain West Conference)," he said. "I, maybe, looked at the wrong things."
Coach Tim Miles recruited him to Colorado State. Cohn honored his commitment to the Rams, even though Miles left prior to the season for Nebraska's head job.
William and Mary sat atop Cohn's list when he decided to transfer after a solid freshman season with the Rams in which he immediately earned playing time, averaging 3.9 points and 15 minutes per contest.
"I knew when I decided to transfer this was one of the schools I was hoping would be interested in me," Cohn said of William and Mary.
Tribe coach Tony Shaver was eager to welcome Cohn, remembering an energetic, smart and speedy guard that more than held his own amid one of the nation's most storied prep hoops scenes. Cohn recalls high school battles against the likes of current NBA players Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker and Cliff Alexander and Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis.
Cohn played for the same Illinois Wolves AAU program that produced Frank Kaminsky, Evan Turner and Iman Shumpert, to name a few of the most prominent alumnus.
The timing was perfect for William and Mary, which had a vacancy at point guard entering this season following the departure of the school's all-time leading scorer Marcus Thornton.
Having to sit out last season, per NCAA transfer rules, was torture for Cohn, though. He called it the "worst experience of his life."
On the bright side, he was able to work out with, and pick the brain of Thornton who is notorious for his gym-rat habits.
"The biggest thing I picked up from Marcus was playing with confidence," Cohn said. "'Don't let anybody tell you that you can't do this. Just go out and play your game every night.'"
Shaver has had only a handful of transfers in his 13 seasons at William and Mary and he couldn't recall any of them having been recruited heavily by the Tribe out of high school.
One of the challenges for transfers, Shaver said, is the sitting out part, not playing under the lights.
"I think they lose a little something for a while," Shaver said. "I haven't dealt with a lot of transfers here, but almost every one of them went through that."
Shaver suspects that was some of what led to Cohn's early-season inconsistency, even though he got off to a great start in the season-opening win at N.C. State with nine points, five assists and only one turnover after winning the starting job.
Cohn's performances have leveled off since the team returned from Christmas break including a 15-point effort Thursday at College of Charleston to help give the Tribe (12-4, 4-1 CAA) its fourth-straight win.
This season, Cohn averages 7.1 points and 3.8 assists. Most impressive: the 2.7 assist to turnover ratio, the second best in the league behind UNC Wilmington's Jordon Talley.
"He's definitely found his niche with the team here lately," junior Omar Prewitt said. "I think it took him a few games, but he's really slowed down and played more like we know he can."
Prewitt, Cohn's roommate, said Cohn is always intense, especially when he's watching one of his favorite Chicago pro sports teams on TV.
Shaver would like that intensity to show itself more on the defensive end. That's where the William and Mary coach said Cohn's game most needs to improve. He said his speed and ability to handle pressure and create for others makes the guard stand out.
"For me, he's as quick with the ball as any player I've coached here," Shaver said, "no question about it. Marcus was quick. David's that quick."
Of course, Cohn doesn't need to do all of the things on the offensive end Thornton did and is proving a perfect complement for the team's top scorers including Prewitt, senior Terry Tarpey and junior Daniel Dixon.
"If they're playing well," Cohn said, "and me and (senior Sean Sheldon) can do what we do – (sophomore Greg Malinowski) does a great job off the bench, we can do a lot of damage."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.