Discussing DaJuan Coleman’s rapid ascension to the upper echelon of the nation’s future stars, Syracuse Select Coach Shawn Pudney abruptly cuts himself off in mid-sentence.
“Did you see DaJuan two years ago?” Asks Pudney, abruptly stabbing me with a glance as serious as Coleman’s beefed up recruiting package.
“He was terrible.”
A Lack of grit, coupled with Coleman’s struggles grasping the nuances and niceties, produced a polar opposite of aesthetically-pleasing game.
Coleman had the body of the blacksmith. He was a man amongst boys.
Yet the big neophyte was callow and confused, with coaches hastily barking at him to snare a rebound.
Picture Stanley “Big Garbage” Roberts before his playing career was essentially deaded by Shaq.
Coleman was the most uncoordinated, lackadaisical big man on this side of Chris Dudley (His current whereabouts unknown, but C-DUD did help fuel Kevin Love’s progression while serving as a volunteer assistant at Lake Oswego HS).
There was a search warrant out for the behemoth’s passion.
“If you can believe this, he was actually a very passive kid,” explained Pudney.
“He was a kid who was almost embarrassed about his size. He posted up with his hands in his pockets.”
Fast forward two years.
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Coleman is one of the most highly sought after items on the recruiting agora.
Coleman has grown from terrible tower to titanic talent, tantalizing to the tune of workaday double-doubles.
Scouts are already likening Coleman’s game to that of a former Syracuse standout who shares the same cognomen: Derek Coleman.
The jumbo forward/center, who's only a sophomore, has witnessed his stock mount in the sizzling July period.
He’s been cooking cats in the post with ease, inhaling rebounds and bullying people with quick feet, sheer strength and dominance. Coleman has a feathery touch that seperates him from other super-sized bigs of his ilk.
He’s still adding some refined back to the bucket moves to his small arsenal, but Coleman is looking to build on last year.
As a freshman, Coleman garnered national visibility.
ESPN.com ranks him #1 in the class of 2012.
At the Big Apple Classic in New York last winter, Coleman’s Jamesville-Dewitt HS stamped a stunning 75-63 win over perennial power Lincoln HS (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
Coleman showed glimpses of what could be.
On paper, the key to Jamesville-Dewitt’s signature victory was the clamp down operation successfully executed on Cincinnati-bound Lance Stephenson, Lincoln’s vaunted senior guard.
Stephenson, New York State's all-time leading scorer who averaged 32 points last year, was held to 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting.
That was pivotal.
But it was Coleman’s quiet domination and crucial buckets down the stretch which provided breathing room in the congested, jam-packed gym at Baruch College in Manhattan.
Coleman scored 12 points and tore down 10 boards, outclassing Maryland-bound forward James Padgett.
Not only does Coleman manipulate, influence, and alter the trajectory of shots in the key, his immense presence keeps players out of the driving lanes.
There’s no longer a search warrant out for his will to win.
None whatsoever. Just a mammoth manhunt for Coleman’s big enforcer-type talent.
A buffet-line of coaches have been salivating like Pavlov’s dog over Coleman.
Syracuse, Connecticut, Kentucky, Ohio State, Villanova, Rutgers, Oklahoma and a slew of other top-flight programs are busting out credit cards, paying attention.
Syracuse seems like a very promising potential suitor for the big fella.
Coleman works out religiously with Corey Parker, the former strength and conditioning coach at SU.
Jamesville-DeWitt has evolved into a considerable Syracuse pipeline.
Syracuse guard Andy Rautins, a mohawked three-point assailant and redshirt senior, led J-D to a 2004 state championship.
J-D’s Brandon Triche, a chiseled 6-foot-4 guard, is the gem of Jim Boeheim’s 2009 recruiting class.
An unmatched work ethic has spurred Coleman’s leaps-and-bounds improvement. His predilection for outworking the rest has helped steer him on a path to surefire stardom.
Nobody could have foreseen this two years ago, a hefty shy kid materializing as one of the areas elite players. After a freshman season that saw him start and compliment Triche and high-riser
“We work out every morning Monday, Wednesday, Friday, from 6-8 in the morning. He starts at 5. I think that shows what type of kid he is,” said Pudney.
Coleman’s also been holding his own in pickup games with the older cats and college players from Central New York’s traditional basketball breeding grounds.
“They’ve pushed his development big time,” said Pudney of the area’s elder statesmen.
“There’s definitely peer pressure from the older guys for him to get better. If he doesn’t work hard, he knows he’s going to hear about it.”
And if Coleman’s torrid pace continues, we know we’re going to hear about it.