Looks like Dekeiyah Cohen has developed some pretty awesome “crossover” skills.
One of the state’s leading athletes for the past three years, Cohen, who led the West Ashley High girl’s basketball team and earned a full scholarship to powerhouse Baylor University, just won a major regional business award.
Last week, Cohen was awarded $1,000 and first-place honors in the Motley Rice Regional Business Plan Competition.
The competition was held in conjunction with YES Carolina, a nonprofit that fosters youth entrepreneurship that was founded by local real estate professional Jimmy Bailey, a former member of the S.C. House of Representatives.
Cohen’s plan and gizmo will now advance to the statewide round, which includes four other local plans and 15 more from across South Carolina, on June 18th at the College of Charleston Business School.
Cohen had submitted plans for The Catching Prodigy, an elastic basketball-passing device that helps players handle faster-speed passes. Hooked to the hands and tethered to a ball, the gizmo leads a whizzing basketball back to the player, who can then throw it repeatedly to build strength and hand-eye coordination.
Ranked as the 41st best high school girl cager in the nation, Cohen had extra time to work on her project, as she blew out her knee in a January game against Fort Dorchester.
Averaging close to 21 points and nine rebounds at the time – a drop from her gaudy junior year when she notched close to 27 points a game – Cohen said she had been more focused on getting her teammates involved in the game than padding her stat lines against softer competition.
Her surgically repaired knee will be close to 100 percent “in about a month,” said Cohen.
Interviewed as she was packing to leave Saturday for Waco, Texas, Cohen said one of her business class teachers encouraged her to submit a plan for the competition “and to do something I was familiar with; the first thing that came to mind was basketball.”
Having already switched her high school focus from engineering to business, Cohen was well aware of the teachers in the engineering program at WAHS. She said she went to one of her former engineering teachers for help with alterations of the design.
She then used what she’d learned in business class to fashion a business plan, which judges found to be successful and impressive.
Cohen won’t be able to attend the June 18th competition because she will be preparing for competition in the Big 12, potentially filling the enormous shoes left by former Lady Bear and current WNBA star Brittney Griner.
“I am thrilled with the drive and creativity these young entrepreneurs demonstrate,” said Bailey, who founded Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina. “For some, entrepreneurship could be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty.  Entrepreneurship provides an avenue for financial independence, a benefit to all.”
Bailey praised all the participants, saying, “These young entrepreneurs are certainly shaping up to be the dynamic business leaders of the future.”
One of the regional competition’s business plan judges, Christine Osborne, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship as the owner of Wonderworks smart-kid toy stores.
Osborne heaped praise on the program and the participants: “Great experience and opportunity to see what the young entrepreneurs of Charleston are developing. I was extremely impressed with the amount of business background they were taught, assimilated into their presentations and product development.”
Cohen, mid-packing, said she’d already spent some of the $1,000 on college supplies, but was thinking about saving the rest to use in refining her product and honing her business plan.
“If I’m not able to sell to a bigger company, then perhaps I’ll form a company of my own,” said Cohen.

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