As an incoming freshman, Kolton Kohl was planning on coming in to make a difference immediately on his new team.
The 7-footer from San Angelo Central High school racked up some accolades including a few First-Team All-District and Defensive MVP in 3-6A and was ready to start his journey at the next level.
However, these plans were put to a halt after Kohl tore his ACL shortly after arriving at ACU. He had to have surgery which kept him off the court his entire freshman year and countless hours in the training room.
“It was definitely tough coming out of high school and getting to college and the first thing you do is tear your ACL,” Kolton said. “You kind of want to be the man but that didn’t always work out for me.”
Kohl would tell you that he hurt his knee by landing wrong in practice, but if you get into conversation with him he would add on a piece of the story that brings some humor looking back on the situation.
“Funny thing is I was actually sitting in a chair waiting to play pickup,” Kohl said. “When I got up to play my knee kind of locked and popped and after that day it was pretty swollen.” “I just like to say I landed wrong in practice because it sounds more realistic than a chair attack.”
After undergoing surgery to get his knee fixed, Kohl was in the training room everyday participating in rehab to get on the road to recovery and get back on the court with his team. Along that journey, his knee got infected which set some things back with the recovery process. Eventually he was able to rehab to 100% and start his college experience.
One of the only good things about sitting out a year was being able to watch and study his team everyday and see the game from a different perspective. He was able to be a student of the game for a year which helped him understand what he was going to have to be able to do and how he would have to play when it was his time to suit out.
“I learned that the pace of the game was completely different from high school,” Kohl said. “Also it was a lot more physical, so just preparing to adapt to the speed of the game and the physicality of it was something I focused on.”
While being able to watch had some advantages, not being able to compete was something that no athlete wants to go through. Over time though, Kohl found that the team success came before any individual success and that as long as they were winning, that was what was most important to him.
Kolton’s impact made a jump from sophomore to junior year. Sophomore year he averaged 1.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg and third on the team with 13 blocks. Junior year he started 20 games, averaging 9.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg and led the team with 24 blocks.
“Kolton has had a unique journey and battled a lot of adversity early in his career that delayed his development a few years,” Joe Golding, Head Men’s Basketball Coach, said. “Those experiences have made him who he is today though and that is one of the best big men in the Southland Conference.”
As a sophomore the ACU Wildcats won the Southland Tournament Championship and went on to play in the programs first NCAA Tournament.
“It was so surreal, it felt like I was at an NBA game with all the security and bright lights,” Kohl said. “I’ve just never been on a stage that big and playing in front of that many people so it was scary but at the end of the day it’s just another day of what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
This past year the Wildcats were on a mission to repeat the NCAA tournament appearance when COVID-19 put a stop to all postseason tournaments. This abrupt end to their season was very disappointing to Kohl and his teammates.
“It reminds you to never take anything for granted,” Kohl said. “Last year was devastating for the seniors because they didn’t even know they had played their last game. Going on, I’m taking every day and practice like it is my last one.”
With everything that Kohl has been through, from injury to unexpected pandemics, he is ready to step onto the court for his final year with a leadership mentality and a chip on his shoulder.
“It’s always been a ‘we not me’ attitude, and I’m fighting for those dudes in the lockers next to me,” Kolton said. “I want to win more than anything.”
Kohl and the Wildcats’ season will have a delayed start, per the NCAA. They will be able to compete starting Nov. 25. There are 11 returners from last season, five of them being seniors.
“Like I said before, I’m playing for those dudes in the locker room,” Kohl said. “We have given this basketball program a culture and when we leave we don’t want that to change. I want nothing but success for my team and I want to help them anyway I can.”