In the world of college sports recruiting, sometimes it feels like forever between the time an athlete commits to a school and finally plays — especially in the world of basketball. With much smaller rosters than football teams, players are recruited young. In incoming Ohio State women’s basketball freshman Cotie McMahon’s case, it was seventh grade.
Cincinnati, Ohio’s Xavier University came first, but was followed up by offers from teams in the SEC, ACC and Big Ten, but on Dec. 3, 2020, four years after the initial recruitment attempt, McMahon chose Ohio State. Choosing Scarlet & Gray wasn’t part of the equation, it was like it chose McMahon.
“I knew from the jump that I wanted to be close to home,” said McMahon. “I have a lot of family, very family oriented. I knew that was going to be a major factor for me. Visiting Ohio State, it was like ‘when you know, you know.’”
Now, almost two years after making the Buckeye commitment, McMahon’s first season is calling with expectation and excitement. Expectation based on what the wing has in her skillset. Ranked 23rd in the 2022 class on ESPN’s high school ranking, McMahon brings both scoring and rebounding to an Ohio State side entering the 2022-23 season as the defending conference co-champions.
Before graduating high school early in the fall of 2021, McMahon amassed an impressive high school career in Centerville, Ohio. Playing at Centerville High School, a short 20-minute trip south of Dayton, Ohio, McMahon averaged 15.8 points per game as a freshman, and increased it to 20.2 by the time her time as a Centerville Elk ended at the end of the 2021 season.
This summer, McMahon played in the FIBA U18 Women’s Americas Championship, in Argentina. Playing and starting every game, McMahon finished the tournament second on Team USA in points (85), points (14.2), rebounds (45) and rebounds per game (7.5).
In the gold medal game, against Canada, McMahon led the Red, White & Blue to their 10th straight U18 Americas Championship victory with 22 points, 3 steals, 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Outscoring UConn commit Isuneh Brady and UCLA commit Kiki Rice, while leading the team in efficiency.
Expectations built off impressive play at the amateur and international levels makes an already tough environment like being a new college student that much tougher. Not only do you have to find your classes, get used to your roommates and get acquainted with a new city, but as a student-athlete McMahon adds practice, team events and doing what she can to compete for minutes in her first year.
Through it all, McMahon is thriving before even stepping on the court for a game. A big part is the team itself. McMahon graduated early to join the team at the beginning of 2022. Although the forward couldn’t play, McMahon could get to know her teammates.
“We have a lot of different personalities, which is awesome,” said McMahon of her Buckeyes teammates. “We all love the game, and it makes it 10 times easier when we’re all on the same page.”
Another way McMahon grew comfort in her new surroundings is by doing something all college athletes get the chance to do in today’s NCAA landscape: financially benefit off her talent and hard work. McMahon established herself with a marketing firm early. With aspirations of playing professionally, with eyes set on the WNBA, McMahon recognized early that women’s sports athletes don’t have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
To help change that narrative, McMahon turned a regular habit of grabbing a smoothie into another brick in the foundation of establishing herself on the basketball stage. After only a few months on campus, McMahon already became a regular at BerryBlendz, the only Ohio-based location of the Colorado smoothie franchise. A lightbulb went off.
When McMahon and her representative from Curran Media Co. contacted about forming an NIL partnership, it was an easy yes. Nicole Young, the store’s manager, already knew McMahon from her daily visits and together they worked on creating McMahon’s signature “Cotie Crossover” smoothie. They even brought in ingredients they didn’t regularly have in the store for McMahon.
McMahon’s never set a foot into an NCAA basketball game. So, a local partnership does more than just put extra money in the Buckeye’s pocket, with McMahon receiving a portion of sales on every “Cotie Crossover” purchased.
“For me, coming into college, your whole life starts over,” said McMahon. “It definitely helped get my name out there on the next level and get started on a good note.”
Although the Ohio State women’s basketball and hockey teams were the only ones in the school’s major sports to win trophies last school year, building name recognition is tough at a school where football sits atop the throne.
Now, any time one of Ohio State’s 44,000 in-person Columbus students grab a smoothie or even walk past the store, they get to know Cotie McMahon and hopefully bring more attention to not only her but the women’s basketball team. A team that sees this year as a major program steppingstone.
While the Buckeyes lifted the Big Ten regular season conference title, shared with the Iowa Hawkeyes, they entered the NCAA tournament as only a six seed and were never ranked higher than 13th in the Associated Press weekly poll. In part because of the Scarlet & Gray’s non-conference schedule.
In the 2021-22 season, Ohio State only played one team from a power five conference, losing to Syracuse University of the ACC on Dec. 1, 2021. The 22-23 season takes away any criticism of an easy non-conference slate.
So far this summer, the Buckeyes have three confirmed non-conference games against the University of Tennessee, Boston College and the University of Louisville. Those are only the team-confirmed matchups. There are also tentative games against Virginia Tech and either the Oregon Ducks or Arkansas Razorbacks, with Arkansas announcing an in-season, four-team, tournament on July 27, although the Buckeyes haven’t confirmed the matchups as of publishing.
Win or lose, the Buckeyes have a difficult road leading into an already difficult Big Ten conference. It’s a natural progression from last season, when Ohio State made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament after defeating Louisiana State University and a close defeat to Big 12 Tournament Champions, the Texas Longhorns. McMahon is unphased by the opponents in her first season.
“I feel like this year its going to be our year,” said McMahon. “We’re feeling good about this season. Playing these good teams is a true test and I feel like we’re going to do really good.”
If this year, and future seasons, go the way McMahon and the Buckeyes are hoping, McMahon’s name will move from the mouths of local students and Ohio State-specific sports coverage and start entering the mouths of national commentators and WNBA scouts. Smoothies are the beginning.