Cohen getting his shot in NBA
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Sandy Cohen III did it all for the UW-Green Bay men’s basketball team.
As a senior, the Seymour native led the Phoenix in every major statistical category.
As a 6-foot-6 point guard, Cohen can shoot, dribble, drive, rebound, dish out assists, get steals and block shots.
You name it, Cohen can do it.
That versatility has taken Cohen a long way in his basketball career to this point.
He’s hoping it will take him even further at the NBA level.
After not being picked in the NBA draft on June 20, Cohen’s agent, David Hamilton, started receiving interest from a number of teams that wanted Cohen for their summer league team.
After the smoke cleared, Cohen was informed by Hamilton June 24 that he would be given a shot to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the summer.
“Honestly, I didn’t care which team I was going to be on,” said Cohen. “I’m a pretty versatile player, and I can fit in almost any system.”
It’s that unique skill set that the NBA minds like about Cohen.
“We’ve talked to enough agents during the process of hiring an agent that several referred to him as an analytics darling,” said Jon Murphy, the longtime boys’ basketball coach at Seymour, who coached Cohen for four years. “He’s 6-6, he’s got the 6-11 reach, he’s got a 40-inch vertical and he’s a point guard. He can pass, and he can shoot. That versatility is why he’s getting this opportunity.”
An opportunity is all Cohen is looking for to make a name in professional basketball.
“All it takes is one or two games to show a team what you can do,” Cohen said. “I’m excited to get out there and work. I’m happy and blessed to get picked up. Not knowing what’s going to happen exactly, I feel happy that someone saw the potential in me and wanted me to join the squad.”
Cohen – whose sister, Natisha Hiedeman, was a star at Green Bay Southwest and is now playing for the Atlanta Dream in the WNBA – has had an interesting road that led him to the NBA.
After graduating from Seymour in 2014, he went to play at Marquette. He started his very first collegiate game and had a strong first two years for the Golden Eagles.
However, he decided to transfer during his junior season to Green Bay and had to sit out one year.
In the final year and a half of his collegiate career at Green Bay, Cohen showed what he was made of on the court.
He started 59 of 60 games and scored a program-high 666 points as a senior.
An All-Horizon League first-team selection during the 2018-19 season, Cohen averaged 17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
The 23-year-old is going to have to display that ability to do it all if he’s going to make an imprint with the Cavaliers or any team that could pick him up if the Cavaliers let him go.
“I’m a player that can do a little bit of everything: pass, rebound, defend – I can guard multiple positions – make open shots and do my job and come out with that competitive attitude,” Cohen said. “If you make shots, that makes everything look better. Hopefully, my shot is on, and I’m doing my thing offensively but also just playing hard and bringing energy to the team.”
The Cavaliers were one of three teams Cohen worked out for privately.
He flew to Cleveland in early June and impressed the Cavaliers’ brass, especially during the one-on-one drills.
Cohen also held workouts with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers.
Cohen, who was in Indianapolis training prior to the draft, got a chance to shine on a bigger stage when he competed at the invite-only Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in April. He played well and picked up some valuable lessons along the way.
“He learned that he’s got to get a lot more aggressive,” Murphy said. “In that setting, I think that was a really good learning experience.”
NBA scouts and team representatives got a chance to watch Cohen compete and also conduct interviews. Murphy said 11 teams showed interest in Cohen at the invitational.
“He was on everybody’s radar,” Murphy said. “I think Sports Illustrated had labeled him as one of five mid-major kids that have a chance to get drafted because of the intangibles that he brings.”
Cohen and the Cavaliers have three games at the Salt Lake City Summer League on July 1-3 and then head to the Las Vegas Summer League, which runs July 5-15.
The Cavaliers are guaranteed four games plus the league tournament.
Some of the Cavaliers’ game will be aired on ESPN and NBA TV.
Putting on an NBA jersey and competing at the highest level is a dream come true for the small-town kid from northeastern Wisconsin.
“This is something I wanted to do literally since I could remember,” Cohen said. “I always wanted to play in the NBA, and it’s crazy that it’s happening. I knew it was always a possibility, and it feels right. I’m glad it’s happening.”