Orlando Christian Prep recently stormed through the Class 2A tournament en route to its fourth state title in five years. The elder statesman on the club — more than even coach Reggie Kohn — was senior Isaac Cohen, who played for all four of those championship teams. Cohen was instrumental as OCP won 135 games over the last five years, becoming a state powerhouse and, more recently, a force on the national scene. The Warriors ended the season ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 28 in the nation, and Cohen, who averaged 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game this winter, is a big reason why. "Isaac is one of the best high school players I have ever had the pleasure to coach," Kohn says. "He is a winner. Not great at any one thing, but very good at all parts of the game."
Shortly before the season ended, Cohen committed to attend Columbia University next year. We asked the 6-foot-4, 208-pound guard about his legacy at OCP and his future playing in the Ivy League.
Did this season live up to your expectations? What will you remember most?
It did. We accomplished our goal of winning the state championship, and I will remember just getting to experience running out to center court and celebrating with my teammates.
You were a part of four state championship teams in five years for OCP. Have you thought about your legacy?
My legacy is just getting to be a part of great program, with great players and coaches. And I was fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of great teams in my stay.
How would you describe the feeling of hoisting the championship trophy in Lakeland? Which state title felt the best?
Just accomplished, and finally content with my high school career, because I didnt want to go out any other way. I get the same great feeling each time, and it was a new experience each time, because you have different players each year.
And a lot of great players. What do you take away from that experience?
Because we've had so many great players, we've had many great leaders as well, and that is the thing I take away most, is how to be a better leader from guys like Josh Castellanos, Keith Clanton and Tyshawn Patterson. I want to be remembered as a guy that did everything it took to win every night, and a guy that when former teammates look back, they'll say Isaac was a great teammate and I'm glad I got to play with him.
There were a lot of new and young players on this team. Did you feel a responsibility to lead? How did you go about it?
Yes, absolutely. I try to lead by going as hard as I can in practices and in games, because if I go hard they'll go hard, and then when they're seniors they can do the same for the younger guys. And I also try to lead off the court, just by how I carry myself and act around other people and teach them that people are always watching, so they always need to look and act their best.
Tell me a little about your team/teammates — what are their strengths and what is the character of the team?
Our team "motto" is to be tough and play like a team. I think once we went to our tournament in Hawaii and bonded and become more familiar with each other it gave us better team chemistry. We have guys that fill every role needed. Reggie (Oliver) and Adonys (Henriquez) come off the bench and knock down 3's consistently and Jonathan (Joseph) gives us toughness, good defense and rebounding, and Dmitri (Thompson) has super athleticism. Justice (Montgomery) is as solid a point guard as I've ever played with, he never turns it over. With Jordan (Montgomery), I know I'm gonna get everything he has to give every night no matter what. And Dre (Clayton) gives us a true big man that we havent had since Keith (Clanton) graduated in 2009.
Who is one player that you think is underrated?
I go up against Dre every day in practice and I think he is very underrated. A lot of schools are going to be shaking their head for not recruiting him once he's in college.
What do you think defines OCP basketball?
OCP is defined by being the toughest team in every game and sacrificing ourselves for the team, because we don't care how many points we score or who gets the credit, just as long as we win.
What would you say are your most important attributes as a player?
Desire to win, just because my teammates know I want to win more than anything, I just hate to lose. Whether it's a basketball game or a spitting contest, I just can't lose.
What is your advice to younger players?
To watch and learn from older guys, to pick up the good habits they have and learn from the bad ones.
What about recruiting advice?
Recruiting has its ups and downs. You just have to be confident that you'll end up at the level and school you're supposed to be at and trust your coaches and parents to help you make the best decision for you.
What were your biggest priorities in picking a school?
My main things were that I'm going to be getting a top-notch education, and getting to play in a competitive league that I think I can play, be successful and most importantly win in.
Columbia is obviously a challenging school academically. How important was that?
Very important, because no matter how far basketball can take me, it will end, and I will have 40 to 50 years left of living, and I know with an education and degree that I will get at Columbia, I will be set up for those years.
What impact, if any, did Jeremy Lin’s success have in making you think that an Ivy League school could still be a good choice from a basketball perspective?
The Ivy League is an extremely competive league, although they may not have very many NBA players, many players go on to play overseas. Jeremy Lin is just another example of how tough that league is and reinforces my decision on going to Columbia.
What are your future goals, both on the court and off?
On the court to win a national championship. I know it's a big goal, but I'm accustomed to winning and I don't settle for anything but winning. Off the court I just want to be a well respected man of God, and be a good husband and father, and work hard in whatever career I have.