As icebreakers go, Jadon Cohee has the haymaker: Did I ever tell you about the time I went 1-on-1 with Steve Nash?
“I think he was almost a tackling dummy for Steve a little bit,” DRIVE basketball co-founder/director/head coach Pasha Bains said of Cohee, Seattle University’s sophomore guard. “Because he wasn’t ready to go against pros or the older guys yet. He went through pick-and-rolls and 1-on-1 coverage and Jadon also got to learn his techniques and training.”
Before Cohee was helping direct traffic for the Redhawks — who host CSU Bakersfield in a WAC test Saturday on ASN — he was lighting up the courts of British Columbia, garnering provincial MVP honors in 2012-13 with Walnut Grove Secondary.
All of which got the attention of another former provincial MVP: Nash, the NBA star who’d turned the trick with St. Michael University School in 1992 and was looking for a workout partner in greater Vancouver during the summer of 2013.
“Honestly, when Steve Nash called me, I was in disbelief,” said Cohee, who’s averaging 7.4 points and 2.1 rebounds with the Redhawks. “I didn’t actually believe it was him, he had to tell me multiple times.”
Only it wasn’t a prank. Nash, then 39 and coming off a season with the Los Angeles Lakers that ended under a cloud of hip and hamstring issues, had known Bains for a while; the latter, like Nash, had grown up in British Columbia and, like Nash, played college ball in the States (Clemson).
“(Nash) actually reached out to me over Twitter,” Bains recalled. “He asked if it would be OK if he trained with Jadon. I think this was his last serious go at a comeback. He really liked mentoring young kids, especially kids from British Columbia.
“When I first told (Cohee), he didn’t believe me. How crazy, right?”
Crazy but true. The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player requested an audience with Jadon, one of the province’s top prospects — “We joked around during high school that he was the Mayor of Langley,” Bains said — and British Columbia’s Mr. Basketball for the 2012-’13 season.
“He had specifically asked for Jadon,” said Bains, who’d coached Cohee on B.C.-based DRIVE clubs on the AAU circuit. “Having heard about him because he was a point guard.
“I thought it was OK if (Jadon) missed a practice to go train with Steve Nash. We’d be in-season, and he would come to practice and talk about what they did.”
The pair worked out extensively at a nearby gym over a three-day stretch, and then a few more times that summer, Nash leading by example. Example and sweat.
“What I learned most from working out with Steve Nash,” Cohee said, “was his work ethic and how hard he trained to be great.”
Nash also offered up a few pointers on form and technique, tricks of the trade gleaned from 17 seasons of flying with the NBA elite. Apparently, those pointers stuck: When Cohee came back from training, Bains recalled him having “his best tournament, for sure, after that. Obviously, that skill stuff goes a long way for (Jadon). And he probably still remembers it all.
“So, yeah, just the confidence boost is huge. I did see a little bit of difference in his jump shot, just in terms of mechanics, so that was all good. He was always very (assured), but that gave his confidence a big boost.”
It gave him a new mentor, too. When Cohee committed to the Redhawks, Nash — who retired from the Lakers last March — sent over his congratulations and wished him luck with his collegiate career in Washington.
“And the fact that he could message (Nash) and get a response,” Bains said. “The guy is, like, an A-level guy. There’s probably not a better mentor an athlete would ever come around, as far as how nice he is. You could see the influence he’s had.”
Tossed into the ring against one of the best point guards of his generation, the young tackling dummy even managed to find a way to hold his own. Sometimes.
“You know, he did better than I thought,” Bains chuckled. “That’s what led me to believe Steve wasn’t at full strength, that he wasn’t able to get his core strength back. I wasn’t sure if (Cohee) won any of them. But he did really good on those.”