The transition to the Keno Davis era of CMU basketball has been on full display during the 2012-13 season, and it's clear the offense places a premium on good shooters. That is why the first signing of the Chippewas in the class of 2013 was so pivotal, as they secured the services of one of the top shooters in the state in Edwardsburg (Mich.) guard Josh Kozinski.
Although shooting the ball is his forte, Kozinski is much more of a complete player, as evidenced by his statistics. As a junior he averaged 20.6 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals per game, and he followed that up by averaging 23.1 points and 6 rebounds as a senior. With a loss to Sturgis last week, his high school career is officially in the books, and he reflected on his impact at Edwardsburg.
"Our season, you know we are not really known for our basketball program here, but we had three straight winning seasons," added Kozinski. "Playing in the Wolverine Conference, there are some real strong programs and players. There is a big guy heading to Bucknell I think, then you have Dontel Highsmith going to Northern Illinois. But we went 15-6 overall and we did beat Elkhart, which is a school in Indiana kind of on the border, so we got some bragging rights with the state of Michigan."
Kozinski earned a lot of recognition during the AAU circuit, playing for one of the top programs in the country in the Michigan Mustangs. But while his time with the Mustangs gained him exposure, it was his hard-working mentality that eventually led to Division 1 offers. And perhaps no person had a bigger influence on him than his father, Jeff Kozinski, who instilled the work ethic and fundamentals into his son at an early age.
"My dad helped out with Coach (Damon) Allison with the Mustangs, and he used to coach the varsity team until I was in about sixth grade," said Kozinski. "Growing up I had a chance to watch him climb the coaching ladder, and I was able to be right there with him during timeouts, in the locker room at halftime and listening to him instruct the team. He really is like my best friend. He's been a workout coach for me and we've really grown together. We are always bouncing ideas off each other about what to do in certain situations, and now that I'm older and my IQ level has grown we are always talking. But it was a great asset to have him around during my career, and as a shooter it definitely helped my confidence to be able to look down at the bench and see my father telling me to keep working and taking good shots."
Speaking of shooting, who is the better shooter right now between the two Kozinski's?
"He likes to say it's him," laughed Kozinski. "I think it's definitely me. He never saw a shot he didn't like, and Derrick Walton was always saying 'Dang Coach, I didn't know you could shoot'! We've tried to settle it a few times and it always comes down to who is hot on that day. But I always bring up points, he played for a really good De La Salle team and he didn't really see a lot of minutes, I think he went like 0-2 for his career from beyond the arc, so I always use that."
While a chapter has closed on his high school career, a new one is about to open up as Kozinski prepares for his freshman season at Central Michigan. He committed to the Chippewas back in July and signed during the early signing period, spurning offers from Toledo, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
"Coach Davis is just a great guy, and so are Coach Gerdeman, Coach Gamble and Coach Smith," said Kozinski. "It really felt like a family when I went there for a few visits. And I was watching practice and you know it looked like they like to shoot the three in that offense, and I'm definitely one who likes to let it drop from beyond the arc. I also really liked the way Coach Davis coaches, he is big on giving instructive criticism and he is a guy who is behind you no matter what, rather than digging you down. I went down into the locker room after the Niagara game, which was a tough game they barely won. CMU was clearly the better team and they just didn't play that well, but Coach Davis was very positive and just told them to keep working, he didn't get frustrated with them as a young team."
"I know they had kind of a rough first season under Coach Davis, but the future is looking good. (Chris) Fowler is a MAC Freshman of the Year candidate and Simons and Hibbitts really played well. I love how coach goes deep into his bench too, he really plays at a fast pace. But we're a young team, and I really think in a few years we are going to be a very strong squad."
Kozinski will be joined at CMU by point guard Braylon Rayson and forward Nick Carlos, two prolific scorers who made deep high school runs.
"I've never talked to them personally, but Nick and I have been tweeting quite a bit, and I know he had a heck of a run" said Kozinski.
When ChippewaCountry spoke to Carlos earlier this year, he remembered Kozinski from the AAU circuit, and he noted that Kozinski's squad got the best of him during their meeting.
"Yeah I remember that," said Kozinski with a laugh. "He's a heck of a ball player though. Our Michigan Mustangs teams were pretty strong, we were one of the top teams in the country and finished ranked No. 4 in the country."
With the first season under Davis officially over, the future is officially on. Whether the team and there young core can build upon it is still a question, but for the first time in awhile, the team has a clear direction. And with a record number of shots being attempted from beyond the arc, it's only fitting that Keno Davis's first commit from 2013 excels at doing just that.
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