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For Cohen, it’s more than fun and games: Malibu senior reflects on how basketball has shaped him

Harrison Cohen, a senior on the Malibu boys basketball team, served as a spark of energy for the Sharks this year. Photo Submitted
Ryan Flynn, Freelance Reporter
12:50 pm PST February 16, 2017

Last week, Malibu boys basketball’s sparkplug likely played his final home game.

The final two games of the regular season were like a nostalgia tour for 18-year-old Harrison Cohen. After a Feb. 6 senior night, a 56-35 blowout loss to powerhouse St. Bonaventure, the Sharks took to the road two days later and narrowly lost to Santa Clara, a team coached by Cohen’s former coach and mentor Bobby Tenorio 49-43.

Tenorio, formerly the Sharks’ head coach, is the one who encouraged Cohen to focus on only one sport. Finding his niche, his role on the team and his place among his Malibu classmates didn’t come easy for Cohen. He moved from Santa Monica to Malibu in ninth grade. Struggling with learning disabilities, in a new place where he knew basically no one, it was basketball that truly helped Cohen bloom.

“My freshman year at Malibu, without basketball, I don’t think I would have been able to be myself,” Cohen said. “My friend group is so diverse because of this game. It’s really helped me come out of my shell.”

Through the team, Cohen made friends and was able to come into his own in Malibu. He’d first gotten into sports as a boy as a way to combat his learning disabilities, at the behest of his mother.

“I just really fell in love with sports,” Cohen said. “Towards fourth grade I started to really love basketball.”

The game, he said, taught him humility, trust, hard work and teamwork. In addition to junior varsity play in Malibu, Cohen played club and AAU ball all across Los Angeles. Among highly talented AAU teammates, Cohen learned quickly how to be a role player and fill in all the gaps, be it through grinding hard on defense or making the extra pass. Cohen also refereed at the local YMCA, giving him the ability to see the game from another perspective.

His senior year, Cohen finally got his shot with Malibu’s varsity team. He would come off the bench, but as a do-everything player, Cohen seemed perfect for the role. Coach Richard Harris often uses the word “energy” when describing the scrappy Cohen, who said defense in particular is something he takes pride in.

“When the crowd starts chanting and you get a steal or whatever, it starts to really motivate you,” Cohen said. “It raises your heart rate and gets your adrenaline up.”

The senior guard focuses on being an “all-around player” and it shows in his play. Talkative and active on the court, Cohen at times can be a ball of energy for Harris to call upon when the team needs a spark.

“[Cohen] is a very hard worker. He’s passionate about basketball,” Harris said. “He’s been a great addition to the team. His energy off the bench is a catalyst to this team overall.”

With his high school career coming to a close, Cohen is looking toward a future that may include some more basketball at the college level. He has received offers from multiple schools and plans to pursue a degree in sports business or kinesiology.

In addition to Cohen, the Sharks bid farewell to seniors Cade McMillin and Keaton Hicks.