DAVIDSON Forward Jake Cohen remembers the first two weeks of basketball practice his freshman year at Davidson as being the hardest of his career.
He had yet to adjust to the intensity and speed of college basketball, and he welcomed the first off day to rest his sore body.
Around 9 that morning, Cohen recalls rolling over in bed and seeing fellow Wildcats freshman teammate JP Kuhlman with his backpack slung over his shoulder about to walk out the door.
I said, J, where in the earth are you going? And hes like, Im going to go over to the gym to shoot, Cohen said. It kind of made me feel bad about myself.
Its incredible because every day he has that same attitude, and it really makes the guys around him better. It pushes me.
Kuhlman, now a starting senior guard who averages 7.8 points for the Wildcats, is the guy teammates jokingly say never tires. Hes known as the Energizer Bunny on a Davidson team (23-7) that begins its Southern Conference tournament run Saturday in Asheville against Georgia Southern (14-18).
It is Kuhlmans determination that translates from the practice court to the game, and it even transcends the gym. He has a 3.8 grade-point average, the highest on the mens basketball team, and he will attend Florida State next year for medical school.
As a devout Catholic, Kuhlman often volunteers at local churches and schools.
This constant quest for excellence permeates every aspect of his life, Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. He wants to be the best Catholic he can become, the best student he can become, the best friend and person he can become and the best player and teammate he can become.
A life rooted in Faith
The middle child of seven children, Kuhlman learned the value of competition, especially from his three older brothers work ethic. Each of the children participated in athletics at some level.
Kuhlman doesnt describe his household as strict, but they were a faith-practicing family. His second-oldest brother, Joseph, is in seminary in Rome to become a priest. And JP stands for John Paul, the name of the former pope.
The one thing I appreciate so much from my parents are the values they instilled in us, said Kuhlman, whose father, Peter, is a cardiologist. They taught us that basketball was a way to serve God and incorporate it into our faith.
Rather than majoring in a science that would fit pre-med, Kuhlman is majoring in religion, hoping to understand more about other world religions. He sets aside time each morning for prayer, but doesnt talk about his faith unless hes asked.
I would think JP probably is the most shining example of a Christian/Catholic that you could find, McKillop said, because he doesnt impose anything about himself or his beliefs upon his teammates, classmates, people in the community, other than the way he lives his life. He represents what he believes in the way he lives his life.
Cohen has roomed with Kuhlman for three of their four years at Davidson. And even last year when they werent roommates, they roomed together on road games.
All those years together, Cohen must have some dirt on Kuhlman, right?
Theres not much you can say about JP, Cohen said. He keeps things too clean.
Help somebody, help yourself
In addition to his games, practice schedule and 16-hour course load, Kuhlman volunteers with the St. Marks Catholic Church youth group in Huntersville during the season.
According to his Lowes Senior CLASS Award page, he has been a part of a teen mentoring program in Huntersville and volunteered at a week-long camp for handicapped young adults during the offseason.
In a family of seven you have to learn real fast that you have to make the needs of others a priority, and thats one thing Im really thankful for Coach (McKillop), Kuhlman said. Hes such a great man and role model. Every couple of days hell say, You help somebody, you help yourself. Thats something thats really stuck with me the last four years.
Helping others is what has motivated Kuhlman to becoming a doctor. When hes asked what kind of doctor, he typically responds by saying a good one.