Monday, April 21, 2008

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 4-26-08

Jamie Kohn estimates that he first picked up a basketball at age 7 or 8 while growing up in Salzburg, Austria. As his Dad was a competitive swimmer, the younger Kohn surely had the opportunity/bloodline to follow in his father's aquatic footsteps, but once he shot the "rock," he was hooked. "Basketball, for me, became a getaway from school in Austria--which I really didn't like at the time," says Jamie. David Kohn, a transplanted New Yorker who met his Austrian wife Dorli while studying abroad, immediately recognized the joy that basketball offered his oldest son. The elder Kohn proceeded to study up on the game his son loved while forming teams in local neighborhoods; you see, Austria lacked school sports programs. And although Austrian schools seemed more advanced academically than their American counterparts, Dave Kohn desired to return to the States--and his willing wife concurred. "He wanted us in America in order to someday experience the college life it offered," said Jamie. Jamie, two younger siblings (Emily and Jesse), and his parents would make the U.S. their permanent home in 2002.

I first crossed paths with Jamie Kohn while coaching him at the middle school level. My main focus at the time was to refine the shooting of some of our unskilled players; Jamie had already been developing a "touch" strictly due to his diligent work ethic. Yeah, I'd affectionately call him a "gym rat" as he was the kid who'd always want to stay late after practice and just shoot, shoot, shoot. My only concern with "JK" was if he'd ever grow tall enough in order to better utilize his obvious talents. He grew to be almost 6'4".

Fast forward to 2008 and meet Jamie Kohn--All-State basketball player--soon ready to tackle the college experience his father had told him about. In his senior year at Coventry (CT) High, Jamie led his team to an amazing 24-1 record and a state tournament appearance while averaging 21 points and over 10 rebounds per game. And he showed WHY he was truly among the state's elite players when he showcased his talents during the post-season CHSA All-Star game--scoring 22 points, pulling down 11 boards, and being named game MVP. He was ultimately voted First Team/All-State by the Hartford Courant but only "honorable mention" All-State by the New Haven Register--the latter publication obviously unaware of the kid's true talents perhaps due to a lack of publicity. "I just do what I can to be my best--I have no control over exposure," the soft-spoken Jamie told me. Oh, and the gifted teen was one of ten players in Class S named to the '08 CHSCA All-Academic team (he's third overall in his HS class)--an accomplishment he relishes just as much as any game-winning jump shot he's ever made.

Sitting down with Jamie Kohn recently, it became clear to me that family comes first with this unique kid; his parents--along with a strong work ethic--are THE major reasons for his immense success. "My parents always imparted values like honesty, hard work, and doing your best," he said. "They weren't strict; it's just been the perfect combo of love and discipline. We all have mutual trust. For example, lots of high school kids have to work, but my Dad always told me that my job was to do as well as I could in school which--in a way--would be earning money (for college) in the long run. I was also taught that you can be disciplined, do well in school, and have fun, too. Yeah, my parents have done so many other things for me--like letting me drive their car--and I respect that." Amazingly, in this day and age, Jamie also told me he has no cell phone or cable TV at home. "My Dad always discouraged TV--saying that we didn't need TV to have fun. You see many kids indoors on these beautiful days playing video games. Heck, I'd rather be outside playing basketball--getting closer to my family and friends. In the big picture, I have a GREAT family. We make up for not having a lotta money by having lots of love for each other--and now my Dad is teaching ME how to someday be a good father."

Geez, the clueless youth of today, huh?

Before telling me of his college plans, the selfless Kohn was insistent about recognizing his high school experience at Coventry. "I couldn't ask for better teammates, and I love them," Jamie said. "I enjoyed every step along the way of my senior season; I'll never forget it. And my coach (Matt Hurlock) helped instill confidence in me and made my high school career an incredible experience."

Jamie Kohn will attend Eastern Connecticut this fall on an academic scholarship to study physical education. Sure, he attracted attention from Division I schools such as Central CT, but he chose to stay/play local. "I can look forward to contributing to ECSU basketball pretty quickly. And my family is here; besides, my brother, Jesse, is my best friend." After college? "Maybe being from Austria may help me play there professionally someday," he said. "I'll try my best."

Ah, yes, perhaps the most grounded, pleasant young man I've ever been around--All-Stater Jamie Kohn. At the end of our recent conversation, I reminded him of how he'd often have a smile on his face during intense high school games this past winter, and he just shrugged. "I smile because I enjoy the game. I put in as much time as anyone practicing, but if you can't enjoy what you do, there's no sense doing it." And about that lack of a cell phone once college begins? He chuckled. "I might have to end that streak soon due to certain things, you know, like emergencies."

I can only wish the very best of luck to a special kid whose gifts truly transcend the basketball court; we're all proud of you, Jamie.


Post a Comment

<< Home