by Julia Maldonado
The 2011-2012 Tilton School girls basketball team reached the NEPSAC Class B championship, but fell to Rivers School 60-42 in the finals.
“Tilton is developing a good rivalry with Rivers School, and they are always good games,” said Rams’ junior guard Alex Cohen ’13.
What makes her statement even all the more interesting is that the two are competing in the same division since only the beginning of this season. Rivers School has won the Class B title three of the past four years, and just last season Tilton was crowned champions of Class C, which is a Division comprised of smaller schools. Cohen explains how Tilton instills a philosophy in its players that encourages them to never settle for what they have, but rather to strive for more.
Alex Cohen is a self-driven junior guard who is on track to leaving a positive mark at the Tilton School and becoming a highly successful player at the collegiate level. She transferred from Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, NH to Tilton her sophomore year, and in her first year at Tilton won the NEPSAC Class C title, (following the 2010/11 season, the team was promoted to Class B). Once she sets her sights on a goal, whether its helping her team win a championship, playing in college or even as small as improving her defense, she will stop at nothing to achieve it. She exhibits traits that any onlooker would admire: confidence, determination, sportsmanship and leadership.
When did you start playing basketball and why? Was there a particular person who influenced you?
AC: I started playing basketball when I was 12, before that I played soccer all the time, but one of my soccer friends played AAU basketball and I was like ”what is that?” I was tall for my age. In fact, I was the same height at 12 as I am now. So my parents looked around for a local AAU team, I tried out and I loved it right away. It has been my focus since then to learn and absorb everything about the game and to improve.
How would describe your style of play?
AC: My style of play is multi-dimensional. I love to come off screens and shoot the jumper, but I love (playing in) transition and the execution of the perfect pass, along with the speed of the running game. I am a very physical player and love to play hard nose basketball.
What do you do really well and what do you think is something you can still improve upon?
AC: I shoot really well and have a high basketball IQ. I am a high percentage shooter and I have a strong game beyond the arc and mid-range. Also, because of my strength, personality and experience, I am not afraid of the paint either and I get a lot of rebounds. My favorite thing is a beautifully executed pass or assist!
I can improve upon everything. There is always room for growth. I have always been a good defender but this past season, I have spent a lot of time working on taking that to the next level so I am ready to compete in college.
photo credit – Howie Rowling
What has been your role on this season’s successful 21-5 Tilton team?
AC: I have been an integral part of the team since I arrived as a sophomore. Last year my role was (to be) more of the outside shooter. This season, with the addition of a second post player, I was still a shooter but my role was to feed (the ball into) the paint more.
Each game is different and depending on our opponent and different things are needed from me. Whatever the team needs is what role I play in each game.
As a junior, do you feel like a leader or will you assume more of a leadership role next season?
AC: Yes, I am a leader. I try to be a leader every time I am on the court. No matter what my role is in any given game. I do not think I am more of a leader this season than I was last season as a sophomore. Last season, two of my AAU teammates and I transferred to Tilton and together we led Tilton to a NEPSAC Class C championship. It did notmatter that I was a sophomore and that they were juniors. We each had that same goals and we each led by example with our roles.
This year we moved to NEPSAC Class B, and we kept the same drive and leadership values. We had some new additional younger players and I made sure that I led by example by always giving 100%, always showing good sportsmanship even when we lost, and always keeping the drive towards a championship for our team as the goal. Next Season I expect my role to be the same: to lead our team to another post-season championship run.
Are you happy that you transferred to Tilton School? What do you like about it?
AC: Yes, I like the freedom of the schedule and lifestyle. It’s more like what it will be like in college. I have the facilities to work out and train in during my off time between classes. I also like the shot clock and traveling (to games). I like the independence.
How has playing at Tilton helped you develop as a player?
AC: At Tilton, we train differently than most high schools in NH. We have a weight-training program in the fall with our boys team, and we also have a dedicated scrimmage squad that we play against. The higher intensity of the program, the 24 hour access to facilities to work out, and the shot clock have all helped me take my game to the next level. Our coach (Tara Brisson) is intense and competitive, and she will give you extra workouts if you want.
What can you say about the coaches and your teammates at Tilton and the impact they have had on you these past couple of seasons?
AC: Coach Brisson is very dedicated to her team. She is intense and demands a lot from us. That is what I liked about her from the moment I met her. She makes us reach beyond our comfort zone to be the best that we can be. My teammates are great. We live together and see each other every day, yet we are also very different have other friends beyond the team as well. We are always there for each other and we all have the same goal. It’s all about the team.
How competitive is the NEPSAC Class B?
AC: NEPSAC is like NHIAA in that there are teams that are really good and teams that are not quite as good in each class. The difference is that even though we were Class C last season, (we were Class B this season) we played a competitive schedule of teams from Class A and B. Each class has strong teams. The class is determined by the size of your school, but you can petition to move up or down (to another class). You play teams from other classes and other states. When you get to the playoffs, you can end up playing teams you have never played before because they were too far away during the season.
How can you compare the teams and players in this league with the league in which Bishop Guertin competes?
AC: Bishop Guertin competes in Division I in the NHIAA, which like Tilton, they petitioned to move up a while ago since they are smaller than most Division I schools. Like Tilton though, they have strong athletic teams and that is what I liked about BG when I first went there. I think that BG offers the best opportunity in the NHIAA and is a great school, but when I had the opportunity to play in NEPSAC, which offered me the ability to play all over New England competitively instead of just NH and take my game to just that much of a higher level, you just cannot pass that up. I think that is the biggest difference. Tilton offers more exposure and more competition just because of the nature of NEPSAC. Boys have been transferring to prep schools on the way to college for a long time now, and I think the women’s game is starting to catch up to that same theory.
What AAU team do you play for? What do you think the benefits of playing AAU are?
AC: I play for the Rivals Basketball Club coached by (current Bishop Guertin Girls’ head coach) Scott Hazelton. AAU offers me many things: a different style of play, the ability to travel the country and play some of the best competition, which only opens your eyes to what you need to do to get to the next level. I think AAU is a must, but you have to make sure you do your research about the coach, the team and the club you are playing for and make sure that the fit is the right one for what you are looking for.
Do you play against any of your AAU teammates? What is that like?
AC: I do, I have AAU teammates on the New Hampton School team, which is the most fun game to play because there are four Rivals on New Hampton this season and there were five rivals on Tilton this season. There is also one of my AAU teammates on Brewster as well.
It makes the game more fun. It also makes the game more competitive and played at a higher level and pace since we all know each other.
You’re a top player in only your junior season. Have you started to look at any colleges closely?
AC: I actually started looking closely at schools last year as a sophomore. I know first how competitive it is to play at that level and that the more schools you see, the better informed you are. Being on a National level AAU team, colleges are pretty much all around you. I played up (an age group) as a sophomore so I got to watch my friends go through the process, and I also got to start early (myself).
When September rolled around this year and schools could start contacting me, I had already started thinking about what I wanted in a school and had actually visited some of them already. I have been talking to about five schools steadily since September but I am open to some others that I have talked to as well. Right now I am focusing on my upcoming AAU live period in April and will probably narrow down my choices after that.
photo credit – Howie Rowling
What are the criteria for you when you are think about school? Location (in/out of New England), athletics (Division I, II, III), area of study, size?
AC: I am open to anywhere in the country really. I am leaning to D1, but I have talked to a few D2 and D3 schools, because my coaches, college advisor and my parents tell me that I need to review all options, (and they are right!) I want a high level of academics and a high level of athletics. I am a high honors student and I am leaning towards the pre-med track, so I would like a school with a strong science program. I also want to be able to play and contribute (to the team). I am not afraid to prove myself and earn my spot. I want to play for a coach that will push you to be the best you can be.
Can you talk more about a potential course of study in college?
AC: I think that I am leaning towards pre-med, but I am not sure where in medicine I want to go yet. Basketball will always be in my life though. I want to play at as high a level as I can and then I think I might want to coach as well. I am a focused, driven person. I see myself giving back, doctors without borders is a thought.
If you could travel to any country in the world, where would you go and why?
AC: I do not have one specific spot. I hope to travel many places. Life is for living, exploring and learning.”