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Putting away the pain

In the movie The Program, James Caan as the football coach looks at his player and asks him if he’s hurt or he’s injured.

USF senior point guard Reggie Kohn was faced with that same question last year: Was he hurt or was he injured? As Kohn struggled through a stress fracture in his leg, he pondered whether it would be best to have surgery and miss the season.

“During the year, of course, when you’re going through something like that,” Kohn said. “Even with the pain and all the other stuff I went through, it definitely enters your mind, ‘Should I just stop? Take the rest, take the surgery.’

“Definitely all the options that they gave to me, came to my mind. When you have your bad days, just like anybody else has their bad days, and plus you have this going on, and then you have a bad day, it comes even more that I should stop and not even play. Maybe I should just lay on the couch all day and do nothing.”

While that may have been the easier road, Kohn decided to pursue the path less traveled. The 6-foot-1, 163-pound Winter Park native spent the season hobbling around campus on crutches with his foot encased in a boot. But that just touched the tip of Kohn’s pain.

“I think people understand some of the pain, but I don’t think they understand what I went through,” Kohn said. “It was more the fact, not as much the pain, as much dealing with everything — dealing with being on crutches every day. Dealing with having trouble sleeping at night a lot of times. Dealing with coming to practice every day and watching everybody.

“I could take the pain. The thing I went through everyday being on crutches for four or five months, it’s a lot harder than coming out and playing in some pain. Walking around like that every day with some boot around your leg, I don’t know. I think people can understand the pain I went through and they can understand someone’s playing in pain, but all the stuff I went through every day besides playing in pain was really the tough part of last year.”

Producing despite the pain

However, when it was time to take the court, Kohn shined. Without the benefit of much practice, Kohn excelled during the 2001-02 season, leading Conference USA in assists with 6.9 per game. Kohn’s proficiency at handing out the basketball made him USF’s single-season leader with his 220 assists. That total nearly double his career mark as Kohn entered his junior campaign with 232 assists in his first two seasons.

The Bulls’ floor general was also durable, logging nearly 30 minutes a game.

But the pain persisted, and Kohn finally decided to take action when the season ended.

“The season was over when we got done playing Ball State (in the NIT in March),” Kohn said. “I didn’t do anything, running or any of that stuff, from Ball State til the surgery in the beginning of August. I didn’t do anything through about August. Then we decided to go ahead and have the surgery done. That’s doing pretty well. It’s obvious when you have surgery, it goes through a lot. But it’s gotten a lot better, and I think that problem is healed. I think that problem is solved. Right now I’m doing OK.”

Even Kohn acknowledges though that his injuries will continue to stick with him.

“I’m not 100 percent right now,” Kohn said. “Of course I want to be 100 percent. Whether I’ll be able to play any time ever at 100 percent, I’ll never know. Just like many guys. I’m sure Will being 6-11, his knees hurt. The other guys have bumps and bruises, so I don’t know if anybody’ll ever be 100 percent.

“Am I right now? No, I’m not. I wish I was. I really do.”

Regardless of his health, Kohn has been able to accomplish a lot at USF. The senior is poised to become C-USA’s and USF’s all-time leader in assists. And after his numbers dipped as a sophomore, Kohn rebounded superbly as a junior, averaging nine points a game and shooting 43 percent from three-point range.

“I think he came here as probably, in a lot of people’s minds, a question mark,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “People didn’t see his understanding of the game, his competitveness, his feel of the game. He thinks one pass ahead. That’s a gift. And he’s (going to be) the ultimate leader in assists in Conference USA. What does that tell you? He’s had a pretty good career.”

Looking to be a leader

As the point guard in charge of a young team, Kohn realizes that he will need to direct the offense more than ever, usually through the capable hands of fellow senior, center Will McDonald.

“I’m never going to look to be the guy to score,” Kohn said. “I don’t think my basketball skills are to do that. I’m not one that’s supposed to go out and score. That’s not me. I just have to knock down open shots. I don’t have to take my man and go and score. If I’m called upon to do some stuff like that, I have to do it.”

One thing that seniors Kohn and McDonald will definitely be called upon to do is take the reins of a team that has four freshmen and no other players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game last season.

“Being seniors you have to take leadership,” Kohn said. “In all honesty, I don’t think coach needs to say anything. I think Will and I know we have that on our shoulders. I think we should know that without him saying it that we have to be the leaders, being seniors, being the guys who started every game last year. We have to be leaders, and we have to step up.

“I think the leadership in the past has been vague, or you haven’t known exactly where it was coming from,” Kohn said. “I tried to step a little bit last year, and talk more. I think this year with myself trying to take that role last year, and with Will being a senior, we both can go at it as co-captains and be leaders together. As seniors, we can guide the younger guys, and hopefully guide the team to a great year.”

After witnessing Kohn’s tribulations of a year ago, McDonald is sure they’re up to the task.

“I don’t feel his pain because I don’t have his injury, but I see deep down inside that he really wants to play,” McDonald said. “He’d give anything to be out there. He comes out there knowing that the injury could give on him at any time. That right there is a part of leadership.”

The USF men’s basketball team opens the season Friday against Nova Southeastern in the Sun Dome.

Contact Anthony Gagliano at