Rich Lam/UBC Athletics Photo

Langley basketball star Jadon Cohee returns

Former Walnut Grove Gator, now a member of the UBC Thunderbirds, plays Trinity Western Spartans

Jadon Cohee is no stranger to playing at Langley Events Centre.

But while in most instances, he was playing in his ‘home’ gym with the Walnut Grove Gators, this time he arrives as a visitor as a member of the UBC Thunderbirds.

Thunderbirds will face the Trinity Western Spartans in a pair of Canada West men’s basketball matches on Friday and Saturday.

The first game goes Friday at 8 p.m. while Saturday’s rematch tips off at 7 p.m.

“Growing up in Langley, even before the provincial championships, we were always playing there,” Cohee said. “I have spent a lot of time there. LEC is my favourite gym in the world, so this weekend should be fun.”

READ MORE: Cohee selected to play for Canada at FIBA U19 world basketball championships

The venue has been the site of two pivotal moments – one positive and the other negative — in his basketball career.

First came the negative. It was 2012 and Cohee was in Grade 10 and a key component of the Walnut Grove Gators senior boys basketball team. The Gators were playing in the BC High School Boys Provincial Basketball Championship final at LEC, ultimately coming up one point short in the Langley school’s quest for a first provincial title.

“At the time, it was the worst day in my life basketball-wise,” he admitted.

The sound of tears inside the Walnut Grove locker room following that devastating defeat were clearly audible to anyone standing in the LEC corridors. But as is the case with many athletes and teams, a loss can serve as a defining moment.

“It was tough to lose, especially blowing a lead, but it made me realize, you can’t take anything granted. The window for basketball is so small, you have to work your hardest,” he explained.

The very next day, Cohee was in the gym, honing his game to make sure he never again experienced that feeling.

“It was a tough pill to swallow (but) that loss made me work harder and I vowed to never lose in the final again,” he said.

The hard work paid off as the Gators returned to the championship game, but this time not letting the lead dissipate. Cohee was a first-team provincial all-star in 2012, the Grade 11 star elevated up to the 2013 provincial tournament Most Valuable Player.

READ MORE: Hard work, dedication pay off for Cohee

In his final year of high school basketball, Cohee helped Walnut Grove return to the provincial championship tournament, where they placed seventh. This time, Cohee was named a second-team all-star. Cohee concluded his career at the provincial championships with 265 points in a dozen games,

averaging 22.1 points per contest. The 265 points ranks Cohee fifth all-time in the 73-year history of the tournament.

Cohee’s high school success translated to a scholarship south of the border where he spent two seasons first with the Seattle University Redhawks and then one season with the Southern Utah University Thunderbirds.

Cohee’s scoring steadily ticked upwards all three years, from 5.7 points as a freshman to 7.8 as a sophomore and then — after sitting out a season as a transfer — to 12.6 last year in his lone season with Southern Utah. He finished third on the team in scoring while also leading the T-Birds with just over three assists per game.

The only positive to come out of Cohee’s forced year off (he could practice but not play in any games) was that he spent plenty of time in the gym honing his jump shot.

It was not an enjoyable time having to sit and watch.

“It was the hardest year of my life, having something you love taken away and seeing your team struggle and not being able to help. That was the hardest part, you just miss it so much,” Cohee described of his forced hiatus from a game he has played since he was a kid.

The first time Cohee transferred was because he wanted to play a more up-tempo style, and while he loved how Southern Utah played, he also had a desire to return closer to home.

With many suitors hoping to land the six-foot-four guard, he chose another Thunderbirds team, this time UBC.

“It’s close to home, Vancouver’s a beautiful city, a lot of my friends and family can come watch me play, which I like,” explained the 22-year-old.

“Jadon is a proven winner (and) his ability to come off ball screens and make plays is exceptional and his skill set is very well suited for the FIBA-ruled game,” explained UBC coach Kevin Hanson in a June story on the T-Birds website announcing the signing of Cohee. “In just a couple of runs this summer, he has shown great leadership skills (and) will have an immediate impact on our team.”

And Cohee has proven his coach correct over the first half of the Canada West season. Through a dozen games this season, UBC sits at 11-1, and Cohee leads the team with 19.2 points per game, which is tied for sixth in Canada West. He is also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

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