U20 Israel Happy To Have Davidson's Cohen Onboard


Jacob Cohen hails from Alabama and plays basketball at Davidson College, about 30 minutes drive from Charlotte, North Carolina.

This summer, though, the 2.10m center is more than an ocean away from both of those places.

The 19-year-old is providing a spark for Israel at the U20 European Championship Division B in Austria.

Cohen excelled in Israel's opening game on Wednesday with 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots, but they fell to Sweden 71-67.

The promising pivot is the latest example of a federation bolstering its national team with an American born-and-bred player that has connections to the country through family.

In the last couple of years, Greece brought in the highly-rated Nick Calathes and Kostas Koufos.

Something that Calathes and Cohen have in common is that they didn't speak the language when they joined their national teams.

While Calathes is now more adept at Greek after living in Athens for a year and playing for Panathinaikos, Cohen is getting his first strong dose of Hebrew.

The coach of the U20 team speaks to the players in both languages.

"All of our meetings and sessions with the players are held twice, once in Hebrew and again in English," coach Yakov Gino said.

"All the players understand English, but this is the Israel national team and it's important that Hebrew be the spoken language."

Cohen should be a quick study when it comes to learning Hebrew.

Only extremely bright students enroll at Davidson.

While he may struggle with the language, Israel will be patient if only because of the upside.

Cohen is tall, and talented.

In 2009-10, his first season with the Wildcats, Cohen averaged a team-high 13.3 points, while also pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game.

He also had a team-best 37 blocks.

"He's a big man, which is something that we don't see with the young national teams," teammate Ben Reis said.

"He's a go-to guy who understands the game well."

On Wednesday, he even showed a deft shooting touch by drilling his only attempt from three-point range.

Cohen was five of eight from the floor overall.

Gino says this summer has been important for Cohen because of non-basketball reasons, too.

"Even his mother was thrilled with the idea," Gino said to the Haaretz newspaper.

"It was important for her that her son would come to Israel."

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