Nicolet hoops trio made history in high school and beyond

College careers ending well

Alex Cohen

Alex Cohen

April 15, 2015

Former Nicolet girls basketball coach Corey Wolf is surprised by none of this at all.

·Ashley Green, first-team All-Horizon League at UW-Milwaukee in 2014-15 with 1,653 career points (fourth all-time). First UWM women's player to reach the 1,000-point, 500 rebound and 250 assist plateau in a career. Scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology/physical therapy and already enrolled in the doctoral physical therapy program at the University of Wisconsin.

·Gabby Bronson, first-team All-Great Lakes Valley Conference choice at UW-Parkside in 2014-15. Led team in scoring, scoring average, free throw attempts and makes, rebounds and assists. 1,015 career points. Led team to 22-8 record and berth in NCAA Division II national tournament. Scheduled to graduate next year with a degree in the applied health sciences/physicians' assistant program.

·Alex Cohen, named to the first-team NCAA Division I All-State WBCA All Good Works team for her efforts on benefit of autism research and awareness while attending Northwestern University. Two-year starting center for the Wildcats, finishing with 646 career points and helped lead the team to the NCAA tournament and a 23-9 overall record. Plans on playing overseas after graduating in June with a degree in human development and psychological services.

The trio were all seniors in 2011 when they led the Nicolet girls basketball team to a 26-2 record and the Knights' first WIAA Division 2 state title. They had been together on varsity since their freshman year and had sacrificed much to obtain that goal.

Individual goals were subsumed, roles were taken on and work was done to make sure the ultimate prize was seized. Junior guards Brittney Fair (Bronson's teammate at Parkside) and Courtney Smith bought into the plan, too.

They rallied to beat Middleton in the state championship game.

Their sacrifice did not go unnoticed at the time. Green, Cohen and Bronson were all named Now All-Suburban that season with Green being a two-time Now Player of the Year (she also won it in 2010). Both Green and Cohen were WBCA Division 1 first-team all-state selections as well.

Once they achieved their all-consuming goal, they could all get on with their lives, pursue their own ambitions.

In spectacular fashion.

As noted, Wolf, who was their coach at the time, is not surprised by anything the trio has done in the past four years.

"Their accomplishments are amazing," she said. "Just amazing. To see them all start at the college level and for them to all contribute the way that they have, it just really shows me again how unselfish they were (back in high school) in getting a championship,

"They put aside all their stats for one goal. You're lucky to have one player at that level (in any given year). To have five like them is amazing. No, I'm not surprised at the success that they've had. They knew how to succeed (going in)."

The levels of team success for the trio have varied on the collegiate level. Their individual intensity toward improving their respective teams has not.

Green has been a starter at UWM since midway through her freshman year. She has endured a coaching change (she likes what current coach Kyle Rechlicz is doing to change the culture) and she has adapted. She was named a co-captain this season for a young, building team that finished 10-20.

She started spectacularly with a personal best 36-point, 15-rebound effort in a win against North Dakota State and that was a precursor to a season where she recorded personal bests for points (580), average (19.3 ppg.), 3-pointers (35), rebounds (237) and steals (42).

Such was her year, that she even had a sports movie-type moment when on her senior day late in the campaign, when she scored 30 points to lead the Panthers to an upset win over Cleveland State. It was the last of her school record five 30-plus point games this season.

"I mean, never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd play at this level and then run with it like I did," she said. "All I was really looking to do was to do the best I could for my teammates and the Milwaukee program. I've really improved my overall game and I think I've also developed into a better leader

"This has been such a great experience. I've been able to travel (tournaments in Puerto Rico and other places) and I've been able to meet new people and make some life-long friends. The program is also starting to get it together (again). People are starting to embrace things again."

Not that the losing was ever easy for Green, who was also a state level track athlete at Nicolet.

"Having been so successful in high school, there was a little bit of frustration," she said. "The record isn't great, but I'd like to think I helped get it back on track and I'm glad for the way it ended (a competitive loss to nationally-ranked UW-Green Bay)."

It's finally settling in that her career is coming to a close. The banquet will be in a couple of weeks and graduation will follow and the doctoral program in Madison will start in early June. She's grateful for all that UWM has done for her.

"I love the academic atmosphere," she said. "They've really helped me learn what I've needed to learn and that'll go a long ways toward any success (I have in the future)."

Cohen's success has come at a different level. Ever since she stepped foot on the Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern campus she has looked to create a forum for autism awareness. She has experienced the condition everyday of her life ever since her 24-year-old brother Aaron was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old.

She has been part of the campus chapter of the nationwide organization Autism Speaks U since her freshman year, serving as its president her sophomore and junior years. The organization has done good work on campus for fund-raising and awareness, but Cohen wanted to take that a step further.

"It's been a big part of my life so coming to Northwestern I wanted to make an impact," she said. "I wanted to be involved."

She succeeded dramatically, as she expanded the chapter's scope toward the greater community. She and her chapter did that last fall with a gala called "NU Goes Blue" (the symbolic color of autism).

"Quite a few people from the North Shore, the Chicago area and the Northwestern community took part," she said.

It raised $20,000 for the national organization. That alone made her selection to the national Good Works team a slam dunk.

The basketball part of the equation has also had its recent high points, as the Wildcats' NCAA tourney berth was its first in many years.

"The team is astounding," she said. "We were ranked in the top 25 (nationally). It was an historic season because we were doing things we haven't since the 1990s.

"I've been really proud of how I've grown as a player. The coaching staff has really helped me work on all areas of that game in both the post and on the perimeter. I'm still working on that 3-point shot (laughs)."

The long, long post hit a career high 24 treys this season. Northwestern lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney to Arkansas.

Cohen is not quite done with hoops just yet as she is in contact with professional agents talking about playing overseas.

"I want to see the world," she said.

Bronson, who is Wolf's cousin, had simpler ambitions.

"I never knew what to expect (when I got to college)," she said, "so I just worked as hard as I could. I knew if that happened, then I would be successful and so would the team."

It was part of an attitude she carried over her Nicolet days.

"The championship is what it was all about," she said. "Whatever I could do to help was what was very satisfying. I didn't need to be the leading scorer as long as we were winning and having fun. The overall goal is to keep pushing yourself and your teammates."

She also feels that's she's grown as a player and a person.

"My freshman and sophomore years, I didn't have much confidence at all," she said. "Now I have much more confidence. I so much more want the ball in my hands making plays."

Cohen and Bronson had a chance to square off earlier this season, a decision Northwestern won easily, but it was still nice to meet up again with old friends. Bronson has been extra proud of Fair, who missed much of her first two years with leg injuries but who came back healthy this season to become a valuable addition off the bench.

"She's just battled and battled and battled to come back," said Bronson. Bronson's also kept in contact with her cousin Wolf and has been grateful for her advice and counsel.

The Rangers berth in the NCAA Division II tournament was was a major achievement in her swan song season. She still has another year to go to obtain her degree and she will miss basketball.

Bronson may have spoken for her former Nicolet teammates, too, with this thought.

"It came up in the last games this year, especially in the NCAA tourney," she said. "I've been thinking about this (the end of her career) and it just came up so fast. It seemed like it was just my freshman year. You think you have the time and then where does it go?"

However fast it went, it was time well spent for all of them.

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