"That's where they first saw me," said Koch, who has gone from a fringe Division I recruit to a full-blown target in just a couple of months. "They started to watch me from then on. When I went to the tournament in Louisville, they watched me again, and then they offered me a scholarship."
Once that offer came through, WVU set up a visit to see Koch in action closer to his home turf. That opportunity came at a team came at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where Koch and his Ashwaubenon teammates were taking part in a summer camp.
"There were a few colleges that came and watched us – it was basically just a practice we had at the team camp," Koch explained. We went through ball handling drills, then did some shooting, some team drills, and some more individual stuff.
"At first, I was kind of nervous having coaches watch me," Koch continued. "I felt like I had to prove something to them, and that isn't my style. I'm not the kind of player that forces things or does something flashy – I have to let the game come to me. That's when I play the best."
Koch also admits that the pressure was greater earlier in the recruiting process, when he didn't have any offers. He felt the need to produce in order to gain attention, which probably wasn't the best thing for his all-around, flowing game. However, once a couple of offers were laid on the table, the need to make a quick impression decreased. And, as is often the case, his performance soared.
Koch's leap to the top of the Wisconsin rising senior class has brought a number of offers from schools large, small and in between. Starting with Michigan Tech, rising through mid-majors like Wisconsin-Green Bay, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, St. Louis, Wichita State and St. Bonaventure, then reaching the top conference with the West Virginia offer, Koch has seen interest him rise almost as quickly as his level of play. The one has fed the other as well, as the early offers have allowed him to play more freely and naturally.
"I did feel a little pressure early on, but now I am getting used to it," Koch told BlueGoldNews.com from an airport, where he is en route to the Big Time tournament in Las Vegas. "I just feel more confident now, because I'm playing better. I wasn't sure what to expect in the recruiting process, but now that I'm playing well it's pretty normal."
Koch certainly isn't the first player to make huge jump during the AAU tournament season. Players that are under the radar spring forth for a number of reasons – the chance to play with and against better competition, exposure on a national stage, and natural maturity being just a few. For the growing Wisconsin native, it was matter of the latter.
"I think one of the biggest reasons for my improvement was me growing into my body and getting more confident and more comfortable with that. I had growth spurt of three or four inches, and it took a while for me to get used to it. I was awkward at first, but now I'm getting used to it and have been playing much better. I've been a guard most of my life, but I was pretty sure I was going to have a big growth spurt or two – my Dad is 6-6, so I was expecting it. It was sort of a relief when it finally happened."
If that story sounds familiar to Mountaineer fans, it should. WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle was a guard who had a big height jump early in his high school career, which precipitated a move from guard to the front line. Like Pittsnogle, Koch had already developed a solid perimeter game, so the newly gained height put him in a unique position to utilize his skills in a similar manner.
Koch didn't know much about West Virginia growing up, but he, like many, watched the Mountaineers' Elite Eight run in March. And although his game appears to be the perfect fit to WVU's system, he didn't really think about them as a potential destination at the time. "I watched West Virginia in the tournament, but I didn't think about how I might fit in there," Koch said. "They weren't recruiting me then, and I wasn't sure if I was good enough at the time to play at that level. So I didn't picture myself in that offense or anything like that."
It might be surprising to hear such words coming from a recruit. Most have to tone down their expectations – few will be heard to express doubts about his ability to play at a certain level. However, the rising senior now says such thoughts are behind him,
"I'm really playing a lot better. I have a lot more confidence, and I am sure I can play at that level. I feel a lot better about myself now," Koch said. "My dad has talked with me about the recruiting process some, and about just playing my own game, and that has helped a lot."
With his busy summer schedule, Koch hasn't had much time to evaluate his offers or pick out leaders, but he doesn't plan to let the process sit idle for too much longer. Once he completes the AAU summer season, he plans to begin studying the schools which have offered and begin narrowing down his list.
"Right now, I'm just playing and working toward my senior season," Koch said. "I will make a decision before [my senior] season starts. "I am interested in WVU. We haven't set an official visit date yet, but I'd say it's very likely I will visit there."