Ty Kocak

School: Pennsbury





Favorite athlete: Dame Lillard

Favorite team: Sixers

Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning the league/cutting down the net.

Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Scoring in the wrong basket in middle school.

Music on playlist: A boogie, J Cole, Kanye West

Future plans: Play basketball in college and major in finance.

Words to live by: “Bet on yourself.”

One goal before turning 30: Travel to different places around the world.

One thing people don’t know about me: I love late night car rides.


What do Leonardo da Vinci, Barack Obama and Jimi Hendrix have in common?

The same trait as Mozart, Sandy Koufax and Spike Lee.

All are famous southpaws.

While Pennsbury lefty guard Tyler Kocak may not be a household name, he has carved out quite a legacy at Pennsbury during a just-completed basketball career.

The fact that Kocak played left-handed with unabashed joy, driving to the basket with sheer determination, only added to his legend.

“He is a unique talent,” said first-year coach West Emme. “When you watch a lefty do things in a game, it just looks sweeter. He’s really strong and really tough, and I think his greatest attribute is how aggressive he is. He really triggered our offense, and it unlocked a lot of the talent in the other players. And that’s the best sign of a really good player, in that they make the other guys better.”

Kocak said that in AAU ball, no one really knows who he is and he can go off by shocking opponents by being a lefty.

In the Suburban One League, particularly in the National Conference, it is totally different story.

They had him well-scouted, knew which way he was going, and it rarely mattered.

Despite being 6-1, he took it inside with such ferocity that he was hard to stop.

“It’s a blessing, man,” said Kocak. “It’s an advantage almost. It’s just different. I like being a little special. Growing up, my dad always told me to go to the basket and be powerful and strong. I kind of just perfected that craft over the years.”

Added Emme: “Everybody in the league knew he was our best player. Everybody in the league knew he was going left, and he still got there… He still found a way to lead us to championship, which is unique.”

Lost and Found


That’s how both Kocak and Emme described the success the Falcons had in 2022-23.

Emme was hired late in the process – in June – to a team where Kocak was the only known entity.

Fast forward to the end of the season, and the Kocak and his teammates were cutting down the nets to celebrate a division title and battling Abington tooth and nail before succumbing in overtime in the first round of the District 1 6A playoffs.

Only one team can finish the season with a win, and that team wasn’t going to be Pennsbury.

But in the larger picture, it was a win anyway.

“Looking at him after we lost to Abington in the district playoffs, I knew how much it meant to play here and be a part of Pennsbury and have success and wear that Falcon brand across your chest,” said Emme of Kocak. “He embodied what you really want in a kid. He is just a good, humble kid who puts his head down. You knew when you were going into battle that you could count on him to be there in the trenches.

“He is just a pleasure to have around. He just enjoys the experience of being part of the (school) community. Pennsbury is a unique community. When you immerse yourself in it, it can become really special.”

Admittedly, Kocak did not know what to expect from the new coach when the process began last June.

“When I first heard the news that my old coach was stepping away, it was tough,” said Kocak. “I was the only junior on the team, and I felt like I was losing everything. Then, we went a couple of months without even having a coach, although the freshman coach from last year stepped up and did some workouts.

“Then, we finally got a guy. Ever since that happened, he flipped the whole program around. He came in, and I felt a lift from the community. They came back. He just kept pushing us to be the best we could be and bringing back the whole Pennsbury culture.

“He played at Pennsbury, and you can tell it means a lot to him. It was really a blessing that he came here. He believed in us, and I couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff.”

Considering the many ways the season could have gone back when there was no coach in place, Kocak was able to place the whole season – even with the heartbreaking ending – in a positive light.

“Obviously, since it was my last time putting on the jersey, it was tough,” he said. “I love the sport, and I love playing for Pennsbury. The first night (after losing to Abington) was rough but, after looking back on it, I couldn’t have asked for better night. It was such a great experience.

“(Winning the league) was really special because, in the beginning, nobody believed in us – only the coaching staff and the players did. To be up there and cutting (the net) down, it was something special and I’m never going to forget that.”

A Guiding Light

Emme was a natural fit, as he came from a rich Pennsbury background, having followed in his father’s footsteps and graduating in 2005 after a strong career and going on to play football at La Salle University and then went to West Chester for a degree in education and got into coaching while student teaching.

Emme coached for 13 years at Jenkintown (11 as head coach), taught in Philadelphia and even had a stint at a middle school.

“Most people’s dream job is to coach at Kentucky or North Carolina,” said Emme. “My dream job was to coach at my alma mater, and I got to do that.

“You take a winding path in life. To get home and to have the opportunity to coach the kids in the neighborhood you grew up in is kind of your dream job. It’s been really full-circle.”

As for the success, Emme lists a lot of factors, with Kocak at the top of the list.

“We knew we had a pretty good chance to be pretty good,” said Emme. “We didn’t know that we’d be that good that quick. A lot of factors played into that, including my coaching staff that had three state championship coaches on it. We just had a really strong program, and we just had a really real connection of where we wanted to go.

“Obviously, having Ty here as your leading returning scorer was a pretty good place to start. There were also some young guys waiting in the wings that just needed to unlock a little bit.”

And the “big elephant in the room” was Ryan Zuckerman, a Division I baseball commit to Pitt, returning to basketball as a senior after not playing since his freshman year.

While Emme would like to take the credit, it was the longtime friendship with Kocak that brought him back to the hardwood.

“That’s my best friend,” said Kocak. “We have been best friends for, like, 12 years now. We grew up together, and we have always had each other’s back. At the end of last year, we started texted back and forth, and he said, ‘You know, I’m coming back for you.’ Man, with his rim protection and athleticism, he just put it all on the line. He is super selfless. He is the most selfless person I know, and he made a huge difference for us this year.”

Added Emme: “The combination of him and Ty are two unique talents, in terms of athleticism and play. They triggered our success, but the young guys were able fill roles and ascend in those roles.”

Kocak again led the Falcons in scoring at 15.1 points per game. He also grabbed 7.8 rebounds per game (including nearly 3 offensive rebounds per contest). His ability to drive and dish led to an average of 2.2 assists per game (against just one turnover).

Often drawing tough defensive assignments, Kocak checked in at 1.8 steals per game and the team was a plus-231 (scoring 231 more points than yielded) when he was on the court.

“You win the league in your first year was a step in the right direction,” said Emme. “In order to a team to be successful, you have to have buy-in from your best players. He trusted me, and I put trust back in him.”

Safest Bet

Kocak played football through middle school and baseball until his sophomore year at Pennsbury, but realized hoops would be the right sport for him.

But he also realized he needed to work at it.

Despite being an unconventional player in many ways, he kept his nose to the grindstone and turned himself into what he has become – a long way from the player who scored in the wrong basket in middle school, which he still can’t live down to this day.

It’s a been long road, but worth the journey.

The whole time, he lived by the mantra “bet on yourself,” which he applied to his team as a leader by example and to himself.

He explained: “Going into high school, I was still very small. I continued to work in the gym and in the weight room. I got myself to where I am now, especially year. Like I said, no one else really believed in us. I had the mindset that I was going to be up there on the ladder (cutting down the net) and we finally got it done.”

What’s Next?

Kocak will definitely play in college. It’s just a question of where.

An excellent student (4.2 GPA), Kocak is a member of the National Honor Society, Business Honor Society and French Honor Society.

“I pretty much just try to get my work done, do the best I can and just set myself up for success,” he said.

There are already solid offers from strong academic Division III schools.

“I personally think he has been under-recruited. It’s mostly because of his uniqueness as a player,” said Emme. “We are hoping he hooks on with a team that he is going to be happy with for the next four years but, more than that, they are going to be happy with the player that they get. He is going to make you better.”

Kocak wanted to thank his family – parents (Amy and Ken), grandparents (George and Carol Kocak), siblings (older sister Ally and younger brother Jace), coaches and teammates -- for all being in his corner.

He not only has accepted where he is being slotted at the next level, but has embraced it.

“Right now, while not committed to where I’m going to play, I’m sending out some videos to see if anything else comes around,” he said. “But, I definitely have some options.

“The whole size of school, for me, is fine. I’m cool anywhere. Division III is still great basketball.”