He has adapted to cultural and athletic differences in England
By Jonathan Mizger/Sports Information Staff
Jamie Kohn played his final collegiate basketball season at Eastern Connecticut State University last year. Now, the 23-year-old Kohn is playing professionally in a different nation. Kohn has always wanted to explore new horizons and play the game he loves. Now he gets to do both.
Jamie Kohn's (at right) adjustment to international basketball and English culture has been a smooth one. (Photo courtesy of David Kohn).
A stalwart on three straight 20-win seasons at Eastern - including last year's NCAA Sweet 16 qualifier -- Kohn is a guard/forward for the Tees Valley Mohawks (Division 1 and National Trophy) of Middlesbrough, England, in the England Basketball League. Middlesbrough is a large town situated on the south bank of the River Tees in north east England, that sits within the county of North Yorkshire.
Upon graduating with a degree in health and physical education from Eastern, Kohn signed a one-year contract with Tees Valley through April.
"The owner of the team that I'm playing for now is from the [United] States and is an old friend of the family," said Kohn. "We got in contact with him and he's seen me play over the years and he's the one that offered me the contract to play."
On the court at Eastern, the 6-foot-5 inch Columbia, Conn. native led the Little East Conference in rebounding twice, earned a spot on the LEC All-Defensive Team in each of his final two seasons, and was selected as tournament MVP when the Warriors won the Little East tournament championship a year ago.
In his career, Kohn scored over 1,000 points and graduated third all-time in program history in rebounding. Off the court, Kohn may have even been more accomplished - if that's possible. He was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Honors Court as a senior, was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and earned spots on the LEC All-Academic Team in all three years of eligibility.
Kohn, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Austria, noticed the differences playing basketball in England than in the U.S. Kohn noted how basketball is not Europe's most popular sport -- that being futbol -- but Kohn noted how pleased he was with how the basketball culture is growing.
"It's an adjustment and it's very different. Basketball in Europe has been growing a whole lot over the past decade," said Kohn. "It is getting a lot bigger and more and more people are playing it and following it more. There are different rules; it's a different type of game in a whole new league. There are differences that I have to adjust to but it's something that I'm used to. I had to adjust from high school to college to professional and it's been great. "
The affable Kohn (at left) is enjoying life on and off the court overseas. (Photo courtesy of David Kohn).
As of early February, Kohn was the No. 1 player in Men's Division 1 and National Trophy play, averaging 20 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. Kohn reflected on how he was able to perform at a high level.
"It makes me feel good. It makes me feel special that it shows that all the hard work has been paid off and a lot of it I have to thank Eastern and the program that I went through there," said Kohn. "It was a big part of my development as a player and I'm seeing that pay off a lot in the specific things that I got better at, the things that we focus on, the defensive mind of (Eastern head coach Bill Geitner), and those kinds of things are how I got better in every way."
Kohn has strong ties not only to his alma matter but also one of his most influential persons in his life.
"My father, David Kohn, has been my coach and my mentor all throughout my life, and he's taught me a lot of what I know," said Kohn, whose younger siblings, brother Jessie, and sister Emily, both currently attend Eastern. Jessie spent last semester studying in Spain while Emily is a first-year member of the Eastern track & field program.
For Kohn, living outside the U.S. is not a new experience. In fact, he was born outside the country in Oberndorf, Australia and spent the his childhood in that country while David Kohn attended Clown School and toured with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. As a youth, Jamie travelled with his father and also won age group state championships in basketball on teams coached by David.
As a young teenager, Jamie moved with his family to Columbia and played high school basketball at Coventry High School. Jamie's mother, Dorli, is Austrian but speaks four languages fluently and graduated from the University of Salzburg and his father played water polo and swam intercollegiately at the University of Connecticut, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude.
Kohn is excited to get attention from new fans and players from a new perspective of playing basketball in Europe.
"Once you come to Europe and play on a team, it's a lot easier to get exposure from around Europe and other teams," said Kohn. "For a player like me who can play at a high level -- but not at the NBA level -- this is where I want to be."
At left: Kohn's intensity and unselfishness on the court played a big part in Eastern's recent rise to prominence in the Little East Conference.
Kohn is still a team player has he has gotten along well with his new teammates.
"That was one thing that was a very positive surprise for me," said Kohn. "I knew none of my teammates besides the owner's son. I'm living with two of my teammates and it's been really great. The two people I'm living with are the other American players on the team. Everyone with the exception of one Nigerian is British, and we are really close, kind of like a family type atmosphere, which is what you want in a team."
When he can, Kohn watches the live stats and video broadcasts of Eastern's men's basketball team, following them through the Little East tournament and on to the ECAC tournament championship.
"It's been really great to see those guys and keep that winning tradition going at Eastern," said Kohn. "The last couple of years, we got that tradition going, which culminated last year with the Little East regular season and tournament championship, and Sweet 16. Last year, we were a second from being out of it three times, but we stuck together and never gave up and I know that's what they did this year."
Kohn is focused on the rest of the season playing with the Mohawks and enjoying the opportunity to play at a professional level in a new world.