Basketball fans across the country have witnessed plenty of history being made in the opening days of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, including UMBC’s unprecedented victory over Virginia Friday, the first time a No. 16 seed has ever defeated a No. 1 seed in the men’s tournament.
With miracles and madness abounding, William and Mary supporters certainly must feel bittersweet emotions watching the likes of UMBC and Loyola-Chicago triumph on the sport’s biggest stage. As has been well documented, neither the College’s men’s nor women’s team has ever reached an NCAA tournament, the men’s squad just one of four original NCAA programs still waiting for its name to be called on Selection Sunday.
Nevertheless, College loyalists should not forget the history that several members of the Tribe made earlier this season, rewriting the school record books and symbolizing the progress the Tribe has made on the court over the past several years.
The contributions of the Tribe’s pair of stellar senior point guards, David Cohn and Jenna Green, garner particular recognition, as both players prepare to graduate from the College, leaving behind a legacy of leadership, excellence and, perhaps most of all, selflessness.
After his transfer from Colorado State in 2014, Cohn had gaping shoes to fill as the Tribe’s floor general, following in the footsteps of arguably the College’s greatest player in its history, Marcus Thornton ’15. Despite the incredible pressures facing him, Cohn quickly established himself as a worthy successor to Thornton, combining an energetic, efficient style with a penchant for the spectacular.
In just three seasons as the Tribe’s starting point guard, Cohn broke the school record for assists, surpassing the previous mark held by Scott Coval ’86 by over 80 dimes. Additionally, Cohn’s guiding hand on the offense this year helped the College become the first team in the history of the NCAA to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line in a single season; Cohn is the first Tribe player to dish out over 200 assists in a single season.
“David’s been as good a point guard as I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been coaching for 40 some years,” men’s head coach Tony Shaver said following the Tribe’s season-ending loss to College of Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. “His fight, desire to win, how he led this team this year will forever impress me.”
Not only did Cohn showcase a unique ability to put teammates in a position to score, he did so without committing many mistakes. Cohn finished his Tribe career with a 2.66 assist-to-turnover ratio, by far the best in school history. Starting 92 of a possible 93 career games during his time in Williamsburg, Cohn displayed impressive durability while stuffing the stat sheet on a nearly nightly basis. At 6-foot-2, Cohn was one of the shortest players on the College’s roster; nevertheless, he will be remembered as having an enormous impact on Tribe basketball for years to come.
Much like Cohn, Green helped the Tribe women’s team reach new heights with her dependability and decision-making, now holding program records for career starts and assists. Part of head coach Ed Swanson’s first recruiting class for the College along with forwards Abby Rendle and Jeanne Gaumont, Green immediately took over as the Tribe’s starting point guard in her freshman season, directing the College offense as the Tribe earned its first-ever Division I postseason berth to the Woman’s Basketball Invitational.
Green remained a mainstay in the College’s starting 5 for the rest of her collegiate career, setting the tone for the Tribe on both ends of the court with suffocating on-ball defense, excellent ball movement and an increasingly effective shooting touch. Her consistency and playmaking abilities gave the Tribe a steady foundation to build on, the trio of Green, Rendle and Gaumont finishing its time at the College as the class with the most wins in program history.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you’re the first recruiting class, and as a coach I think I probably put a lot of pressure on them … but they’ve certainly delivered,” Swanson told CAASports after the Tribe’s CAA tournament loss to Elon. “Jenna Green’s improvement this year has just been incredible … they’ve just changed the culture of the program.”
And if not for their record-breaking statistics, players like Cohn and Green will most certainly be remembered for changing the culture of Tribe basketball. The College may still lack an NCAA tournament banner, but recent Tribe teams have almost singlehandedly created a tradition of success where there was none before. Along with Cohn and Green, fellow seniors like Rendle and guard Connor Burchfield have set similarly excellent standards for the players who will follow in their footsteps. Shaver and Swanson also deserve credit for their efforts to transform Tribe basketball into the perennial championship contender it is today. The wait for that first NCAA tournament berth is a frustrating one for sure, but while we wait, let’s also applaud the players who laid the groundwork for the team that will inevitably get over the hump.