David Cohn making history at William and Mary

Dave Johnson
Contact Reporterdjohnson@dailypress.com

As we tiptoe around the notion that he might not have the look of a college basketball player, particularly one having a historic season, David Cohn isn’t at all offended.

“I totally get it,” he said. “People look at me and say, ‘This kid plays basketball?’ ”

They do. Cohn is listed at 6-foot-2 (in shoes) and 168 pounds (after a hearty breakfast). On this day, he’s off to class at William and Mary in unlaced Chuck Taylors.

But, yes, he plays. And if numbers indeed speak for themselves, Cohn’s speak forcefully.

He leads the Colonial Athletic Association in assists with 193, 26 more than anyone else. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.5-to-1, tops in the league. He became W&M’s all-time assist leader in only his 82nd game.

And as of Friday, he was the only player in Division I basketball in the 50-40-90 club — shooting percentages from the field, 3-point arc and free-throw line.

Digest that for a second. There are 351 teams in D-I. That’s roughly 4,200 players, Oklahoma’s Trae Young among them.

Cohn was never better than in the regular-season finale against the College of Charleston. Playing all 45 minutes of an overtime win, he had a career-high 30 points, nine assists, and one turnover. He went 9 of 12 from the field, 2 of 3 from deep and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.

“I felt during the course of the game that he was playing really well and making really big plays for us,” W&M coach Tony Shaver said. “But it’s not until the game’s over and you look at the stat sheet and have a chance to watch the game tape that you realize, wow, that was a phenomenal performance.

“He was terrific. I think in many ways he willed us to win in that ballgame.”

After losing four starters from last season, including two unexpected transfers, Shaver needed Cohn to step into a new role. He had become used to deferring, sometimes too much, to proven scorers like Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt.

As a junior, Cohn averaged 6.2 points a game. He shot 41 percent from the field, 37 percent from the 3-point arc and 73 percent from the free-throw line. If W&M was to compete this season, Shaver needed more from his floor leader.

“In high school, I was known more as a scorer than a passer,” Cohn said. “They recruited me here originally as a combo guard, not even a point guard.

“This year, I’ve felt really comfortable out there. My teammates have confidence in me and the shots have been falling. Everything else has taken care of itself.”

As Cohn shot more — 255 attempts this season as compared to 157 a year ago — his accuracy improved. Cohn is now shooting 52 percent overall, 42 percent from deep, and 92 percent from the free-throw line.

He’s averaging 14 points a game, more than twice his scoring production as a junior.

“He’s playing with a great deal of confidence,” Elon coach Matt Matheny said. “When you have to not only defend his ability to drive their machine but also stop him from scoring, that really puts pressure on your defense. He’s playing at a high level.”

Coming out of York High in Elmhurst, Ill., Cohn had dozens of offers. One was from William and Mary. Another was from Colorado State, which in Cohn’s senior year at York won 26 games and made the NCAA tournament.

Cohn chose the Rams and scored 15 points in his debut. He played in 31 games, starting five. But after the season ended, he decided to transfer.

“I had made a superficial decision,” he said of signing with CSU. “I was all into the biggest school. I pushed William and Mary to the side because I didn’t think it was cool enough, honestly.

“But I quickly came to my senses. I wasn’t going to make the wrong decision twice.”

As a transfer, Cohn sat out the 2014-15 season, which allowed him to study Tribe legend Marcus Thornton. Then he took over, and he’s started 90 of a possible 91 games since.

William and Mary is having what could go down as an unprecedented offensive season. Entering Sunday’s CAA quarterfinal against Towson, the Tribe leads the nation in percentages for 3-pointers (.435) and free throws (.809). W&M is fourth in field-goal percentage (.512).

If the Tribe’s current percentages hold, William and Mary will become the first team in Division I history to finish a season at 50-40-80.

“Anyone can see we’re one of the best offensive teams in the country, period,” Cohn said. “We have a lot of guys who can score the ball and we do a good job of sharing it.

“It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball. Every game day, I look forward to it more than I ever had. We’re having a lot of fun.”

Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
45°