Xavier N Iowa Basketball

Northern Iowa's Bennett Koch (25) drives to the basket against Xavier's Sean O'Mara (54) during a game last season.

Associated Press

CEDAR FALLS – When interviewing for a graduate manager position with the Northern Iowa men's basketball team in 2015, it's safe to assume Jake Koch failed to divulge certain aspects of his relationship with one of the team's centers.

Brothers, especially ones from highly competitive, athletic backgrounds, are notoriously prone to conflict and the Koch family was no exception. Growing up in their Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, home, Jake openly admits he made life difficult for younger sibling Bennett.

"I picked on him a lot," Jake says of Bennett, who is five years his junior. "I was ruthless towards him. (There were) a lot of punches thrown. Anything I could do I would do."

During these violent outbursts, Jake says just one area of Bennett's body was off limits.

"Never to the face," he says. "We never wanted mom to find out."

For his part, Bennett downplays the attacks, even suggesting his brother may have exaggerated their severity for effect.

"I don't remember any (punches)," he says with a light chuckle. "You ask any young siblings, there's going to be some conflict between them. But it's all out of love."

While that love may have been of the tough variety, both parties say their relationship mellowed over the years, thank largely to one major shared goal.

"Growing up, basketball has been something we have been able to connect through," Bennett says. "It's always been all of our dreams to play at the Division-I level and we got closer pursuing that dream."

The bond that forged that common ground grew even stronger once the brothers were able to fulfill their D-I dreams at a common place.

Since taking over as Northern Iowa's head coach in 2006, Ben Jacobson has yet to go into a season without at least one member of the Koch family on his roster.

It started his first year with the arrival of the eldest brother Adam, an eventual three-year starter who captured Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors during UNI's 2010 run to the Sweet 16.

Jake eventually followed suit, playing alongside his brother as a redshirt freshman in 09-10 before carving out his own legacy at UNI. He currently ranks second in program history in games played (138) and blocked shots (123) and joins Adam as the only pair of siblings to score 1,000 points in a Panther uniform.

Having attended Panther games since age 11, Bennett says it was an easy decision to follow his brothers to UNI once he received an offer from the program. And as he enters his final collegiate season, he's also hoping to follow them into the record books.

A preseason All-MVC First Team selection, Bennett is 367 points shy of reaching the 1,000-point plateau. His quest to hit four-figures begins Friday, when UNI opens the 2016-17 season at North Carolina.

And as his game has developed in recent years, it's done so partially under the tutelage of his biggest childhood tormentor.

After embarking on a brief professional career overseas, Jake returned to UNI as a graduate manager in 2015. After two years at the position, he was named the team's film assistant this offseason.

Paired up at the college level for the first time, the brothers say they have each grown a lot in recent years and developed a stronger relationship on the court and off. While generally maturation has played a role, the eldest brother believes there are other factors at play.

"Once you get to college you start to change a little bit as a person," says Adam, who currently works as a dentist in Green Bay. "I think Jake and I going to school together changed our relationship and changed it for the better. We were competitive sure, but I think it brought us closer together and I think I can say the same for Bennett.

"It gives you common ground and something to relate to each other about. It's something we can all talk to each other about."

Aspects of the conversation may be changing soon, as the Koch brothers' decade-plus run of playing at Northern Iowa will conclude at season's end.

While there may be some sadness when the time comes, Bennett says he hasn't put much thought into being the last family member to play at UNI, focusing more on his goals for the upcoming season, which include duplicating some of Adam and Jake's lofty numbers.

"I hadn't thought about being the last Koch to play basketball here until someone brought that up," he says. "It's interesting to think about (but) I don't think I'm going to think about it much. Throughout the season I'm just going to try to play my game and influence the game in different ways."

But when the day comes for the brothers to wax nostalgic about their playing days, Adam expects there will be no shortage of stories to tell.

"We've each had the opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament a couple times, win a lot of games," he said. "There's been success and it's been a lot of fun. It's been a part of our lives for awhile now. It'll be interesting after this year. We won't really know what to do with ourselves, I'm sure."


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