March Madness is still going on, but for programs like Florida who didn’t make The Dance we are already well into the offseason and the Gators’ coaching staff has been relentlessly attacking the transfer portal looking to inject new talent into the roster.
One of the top targets on their board is also one of the most interesting from a talent and fit standpoint–St. Francis PA’s Josh Cohen. As things currently stand Cohen is one of the top available players in the portal with dozens of high major teams approaching him, and the Gators are one of the teams pursuing him the hardest. Florida even sent members of the staff for a home visit of the Lincroft, New Jersey native–so you know they aren’t messing around.
Part of the reason Cohen is so sought after is that next year he will enter his fifth season of college basketball–but only his third year of eligibility. Cohen redshirted his first year at St. Francis PA and then got the year back during COVID (as all players did) so right now he is a coach’s dream–an experienced player entering his fifth year of college basketball with three years of playing experience, but with two more years remaining.
Now, let’s talk about why people are really interested–his production.
Last season Cohen averaged 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists per game while adding in a block and steal per game on the defensive end. Not only was he a monster scorer but he did it efficiently shooting 59% from the field and averaging under 2 turnovers per game. With numbers like that, you can see why coaches are salivating.
Here is why Cohen is one of the most interesting players in the country. He is 6’10” and 220 pounds, though when you look at him you’d probably think that his weight is slightly exaggerated. He’s a skinny frontcourt player who isn’t particularly dominant from a physical standpoint, which might make you think he’s a stretch big who takes a lot of shots from the outside. Surprisingly–no, not at all. Cohen has only taken two three-point attempts in his entire career.
Cohen is all skill, finesse, and touch. As soon as he catches the ball in the midpost he’s a threat, and though he hasn’t stretched out his range to beyond the three-point line, when it comes to the 15-foot and in area he’s deadly. Where he’s at his best is attacking other frontcourt players off the dribble where he can get to the rim with speed, or if he’s kept up with–his length. Watching Cohen is a fascinating basketball experience as he’s quite unlike anyone else in college basketball. When you hear about a frontcourt player averaging 22 points per game you’re expecting either a bruising, physical interior scorer or a player who can step out and hit threes–and Cohen is neither.
This makes the evaluation of Cohen extremely interesting as coaches will try to project what he’s capable of doing at the high major level. There will be questions about Cohen on the defensive end at the high major level, though he is a smart, instinctive help defender. However, those instincts might not help him against purely explosive high major frontcourt players, particularly at the five. However, if you play him at the four, your spacing is going to be hurt without him being able to shoot the three.
To add in some more context, St. Francis PA was one of the worst teams in college basketball last season finishing 337th in KenPom. The Northeast Conference in which they play was the worst conference in college basketball according to KenPom and St. Francis PA finished fourth (yes, one could point out that Fairleigh Dickinson from the conference just beat Purdue in the NCAA Tournament). Did the quality of competition play into Cohen’s monster numbers? To some extent–yes, but to what extent is going to be up to the coaches recruiting him.
Let’s add another data point to hopefully add some clarity to what he could accomplish at a higher level–his numbers against quality competition. Luckily, St. Francis PA played a number of quality opponents in non-conference play this season, perhaps giving a glimpse at what he could do if he’s at the high major level next season.
Against St. Bonaventure he had 21 points on 9-11 shooting, adding 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Against Butler he had 18 points on 8-14 shooting, with 7 rebounds and 1 assist.
Against Ohio State he had 18 points on 8-16 shooting, with 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
Finally, against Miami, the best team he played against–he had 30 points on 10-16 shooting, adding 9 rebounds.
This adds to the interesting case of Josh Cohen. Given his style of play and the league he plays in you’d think he’d struggle against quality competition but when given the opportunity this season–he was a perfect four of four in not only scoring, but scoring efficiently.
Florida’s pitch to Cohen is going to be a featured role in the offense in a similar way to what Colin Castleton was. No, his style of play isn’t exactly like Castleton, but Florida would like to play through him in the high post in a similar way to what they did with Castleton. It’s going to be an interesting pitch to Cohen who will have all kinds of possibilities in every league in the country.
There is no timetable known for Cohen’s decision.