For a few incredible days this past summer, Jadon Cohee did his best to convince himself that what seemed so unreal, was indeed reality.
“At first, when he called me, I didn’t believe it was him,” laughs the senior point guard who last spring led Langley’s Walnut Grove Gators to the B.C. Triple A title. “I said ‘Is this a joke?’ and he said, ‘No, it’s Steve Nash.'” Victoria’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, in the Lower Mainland and looking for a training partner to rehab from injury with, was put in touch with Cohee. The pair subsequently spent three straight days together in a local gym.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Cohee said Tuesday as he prepared to make his own return from injury ahead of his No. 1-ranked team’s appearance this week at the Terry Fox Legal Beagle Invitational in Port Coquitlam, “at first, I was just trying to play it cool. But on the inside, all I could think was, ‘I am playing one-on-one with Steve Nash.'”
Too mature and goal-driven to be star struck for too long, Cohee came away from the sessions energized by the affirmations of Nash’s legendary work ethic, and by the time the Lakers point guard took to instruct the touted young player who was born three days after Nash was picked in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft.
“He treated me like a teammate,” continued Cohee, who last season was picked the provincial championship MVP, 21 years after Nash collected the same honour upon leading St. Michaels University School to the title in 1992. “He was very positive. If I made a mistake or there was something to do with my mechanics, he would stop and show me. We’ve kept in contact.”
All of that has served Cohee well as he has embarked on a senior season in which his leadership skills have matched his immense on-court talents.
How else can you explain the way he has helped head coach George Bergen solidify the team’s new defence-first mentality, one that has helped the No. 1-ranked Gators roll out to a 14-0 start to the new season despite the fact that Walnut Grove graduated a half-dozen main rotation players from last season’s title winning team?
“I think it shows Jadon’s will to win and it has spread to everyone on that team,” says Pasha Bains, Cohee’s club coach at Drive Basketball, when asked about the more intangible part of the 6-foot-4 senior’s game. “What I have noticed the most this year is Jadon knows when to pat his teammates on the back, but he also knows when he has to yell.”
Part-and-parcel with keeping everyone on his team involved in the play is Cohee’s innate passing ability. But it wasn’t always that way. “Back when I played in the Steve Nash League,” he remembers of his first years in the game, “I’d go a whole game without passing. I’m not kidding. My mom would bribe me with chips and chocolate. Then I just fell in love with it.”
Bains sees even deeper meaning to Cohee’s passes. To him, they represent the outstretched arms of a teammate, drawing everyone else in to share team success.
“I can see how he passes the ball to lift his teammates and give them confidence,” explains Bains. “He gives up easy layups because he is genuinely happy to get other players started. That speaks to his maturity.”
At the start of the season, The Province asked a select group of high school coaches who they thought the most valuable player in the province was. Walnut Grove’s Bergen, himself a B.C. first team all-star for MEI in 1970, had no doubt.
“Jadon, more than any other player in the province, impacts all areas of the game on a consistent basis,” Bergen wrote.
Earlier this week, Bergen added: “The only way I can really sum him up is he loves his teammates.”
As simple as that sounds, it’s the best recommendation of character there is.
Cohee gets his chance to build relationships with a new group of players next season, this time at the NCAA Div. 1 level, when he suits up for the Seattle University Redhawks, the Western Athletic Conference program that also features a pair of past B.C. high school standouts in guards Emerson Murray (St. George’s) and Manroop Clair (Burnaby South).
Besides picking a program close to home, where he will be able to contribute sooner rather than later, Cohee says he has found a real match with Redhawks head coach Cameron Dollar, the former UCLA point guard who helped lead the Bruins to a national title when the 1995 NCAA Final Four was staged in Seattle.
“That was really important to me because he sees the game the way that I see it,” Cohee says of Dollar. “And they were at all of my games this summer. They were in Portland, Houston. They followed me around the country and that meant a lot to me.”
Cohee has played top U.S. competition on the club circuit with Drive, he’s led Walnut Grove to a 55-3 record since the start of the 2012-13 season, and he’s the only player to have twice been selected to play against U.S. powerhouse Findlay Prep at the annual Tsumura Basketball Invitational.
All of that and the mentorship of a guy named Nash? It’s a resumé that’s pretty tough to top.
Source: The Province – Howard Tsumura