[first person]
Q&A On the front line
Nir Cohen keeps his eye on the ball

University of San Diego senior forward Nir Cohen grew up in Israel dreaming of playing college basketball in the United States. He spent his first three years out of high school in the Israeli Air Force, fulfilling his compulsory military duty, then played two years at Monroe Junior College in New York before Toreros head coach Brad Holland recruited him last year.

“What’s tougher — military boot camp or Coach Holland’s training camp?

They’re both tough, but on different scales. Sports-wise, Coach Holland runs a very tough camp. We work hard every day and we‘re definitely ready for the start of the season.

As a Jewish person representing at a Catholic university, what are team prayers like for you?

That’s something I really like here, when Father Mullen leads prayers. He inspires us. He talks about God, but I don‘t take it personal as a Jewish person at a Catholic school. I know who my God is, and I‘m comfortable with it. I listen to every word Father Mullen says.

What are your thoughts on the latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Every solider knows when he joins the army no matter what happens the country is going to do everything it can to get you back. The war during the summer was mainly about the getting the soldiers back, not about territory. The value system of the Israeli people is about getting the soldiers back.

Playing sports for your college is unique to American athletics. How would you describe school spirit to people in Israel?

You can’t ask for anything more as a basketball player and as a student. The support from students, fans and alumni is huge. It’s there even when you have a bad game. It’s definitely something I will remember forever.