Jake Cohen flew in from Philadelphia on Tuesday.
“It was certainly nice to be familiar with the airport and to know my way around the city,” Cohen says.
Cohen has auditioned for the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks. He will fly to auditions in Atlanta and Boston. Between trips he stays at his family’s house outside Philadelphia. On Wednesday he worked out for the Charlotte Bobcats. He’ll spend two nights in Davidson, where he played the past four seasons.
You remember Cohen as a Wildcat. He’s 6-foot-10 and was the Southern Conference Player of the Year. He led the Wildcats in scoring and blocked shots.
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Since late May he has moved from town to town and team to team. He shares the court with players who were special in college and attempts to convince executives and coaches that he is worthy of a job or a longer look.
“They’re not just giving these spots up to anyone,” says Cohen. “You have to take them.”
Every time he allows himself to think about the grind, he says he “takes a step back from things. And each time I do I realize how grateful I am that I have an opportunity I can take advantage of.”
Speaking of grind
I ask Cohen how often he thinks about the NCAA tournament.
“Oh, man,” he says.
The Wildcats, seeded No. 14, are handling Marquette in the first round. They’re handling Marquette because Cohen scores a game-high 20 points and throws several European big man-quality passes.
And then Marquette rallies and guard Vander Blue drives past Cohen for a layup with a second remaining and the Golden Eagles win 59-58.
When Cohen goes to Brooklyn during late May for his first NBA workout, guess who is there?
“We talked about it,” Cohen, calm and courteous, says about Blue. “He was nice enough not to rub it in too much. Otherwise I might try to hurt him or something. I don’t want to lose it.”
The Bobcats work out two groups of six Wednesday. The biggest man and biggest name is 7-foot Indiana center Cody Zeller.
The smallest man is Johnson C. Smith guard Trevin Parks. Parks is listed at 5-11. In related news, my ex-wife claimed she weighed 115 pounds.
Parks, who is from Hickory and played his freshman season for the Charlotte 49ers, averaged 25 points and 4.1 assists as a senior. He’s quick and entertaining, has great range and is adept at drawing fouls.
“I feel blessed,” says Parks, who sports BORN TO BALL and FAVORED BY GOD tattoos on his left shoulder and upper arm. “I want to thank God and the whole Bobcats organization for giving me the opportunity to come out here.”
The Johnson C. Smith campus is less than 2 miles from Time Warner Cable Arena. Parks has played at the arena perhaps seven times. He has driven past probably hundreds.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid,” Parks says. “I mean, you have sleepless nights thinking about going against NBA players. I grew up watching Allen Iverson, so the small guard aspect doesn’t really bother me too much.”
After playing three-on-three games, players shoot. Parks moves around the perimeter, catching passes from Zeller and puts the ball up quickly. He hits 12 straight jump shots.
New Charlotte coach Steve Clifford is watching players at the other end of the court.
Hey, coach, down here!
I don’t yell, but Clifford turns his head anyway.
Parks misses three straight.
Scheduled to work out Thursday for the Brooklyn Nets, Parks is the last player from the first session to leave the court.
Before he does, he shakes hands with Clifford, with associate head coach Patrick Ewing and with anyone with a hand.
Parks has that kind of personality. You want to shake his hand. You want him to succeed.
You want him to lead the break and find Cohen on the wing.
“You have a Hall of Famer over there,” Parks says of Ewing. “And the head coach is nice, and I met him. I hope to see him in the future, coaching me.”