Oct 25, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
DaJuan Coleman reached over the table for one hat, with a Kentucky logo on it. Then he pivoted over to the Syracuse hat and, smiling, put it on his head – much to the mutual delight of the entire Central New York basketball community.
On Tuesday afternoon, Coleman, the Jamesville-DeWitt senior who has led the Red Rams to three consecutive state Class A championships, announced his verbal commitment to stay at home and play for the Orange, starting in the fall of 2012.
“There’s nothing like playing at home,” said Coleman. “And I think that we will have a very good team (at SU) next fall if I go there.”
“I’m thrilled and proud for him,” said J-D head coach Bob McKenney. “He’s an impact player and will help SU right away.”
More than 200 people crowded the Hall of Fame gallery in the foyer outside the J-D gymnasium for this announcement, standing five deep around the bank of TV cameras. The crowd included family, students, and the J-D basketball players who are Coleman’s teammates.
When Coleman walked out, dressed in a three-piece suit while accompanied by his mother, Tyris, and his brothers, the crowd broke out in loud applause. And they were even louder when Coleman put on the SU hat, even starting a “Let’s Go Orange!” chant.
So, for the third time in the last decade, a major J-D recruit chooses to go up the road to the Carrier Dome, Coleman joining Andy Rautins and Brandon Triche in making that short trek.
Unlike Rautins and Triche, though, Coleman was sought by every major college program in the country. By the fall, he had narrowed it down to three finalists – SU, Kentucky and Ohio State.
Both Coleman and J-D head coach Bob McKenney said the recruiting process had become grueling by Coleman’s junior year, taking up large amounts of their time.
Even before making official visits to all three campuses, though, Coleman said he had decided on SU late in September. Still, he took his official visit to Kentucky earlier this month, saying he needed reassurance that he was making the right choice to stay at home.
The official trip to SU followed last weekend, where Coleman said he hung out with the current players (including Triche) and took in the Orange’s football upset of West Virginia, saying they “made me feel at home.”
A few days later, Coleman went public with his choice, not even taking the trip to Ohio State that was planned for this weekend.
Tyris Coleman said the whole courting of his son was “a nerve-wracking process and some sleepless nights”, but added that she only played a small part in convincing Dajuan to stay in town.
At 6-10 and 280 pounds, Coleman has dominated post play from the moment he put on a J-D uniform. He teamed with Triche in 2009 for the Ram’s second straight state Class A title, and two more would follow in 2010 and ’11. Coleman averaged 24 points and 14.5 rebounds per game as a junior.
The rise of Coleman as a national prospect also had an impact on his teammates. Fellow senior Tyler Cavanaugh, a 6-8 forward, has verbally committed to Wake Forest University and, with SU’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, there’s a chance Coleman and Cavanaugh could face each other in the college paint.
One part of making that announcement now, said Coleman, was to get it out of the way before J-D basketball practice begins in mid-November. The Rams have high-profile appearances set against national powers Oak Hill (Va.) and DeMatha (Md.) on Dec. 9 and 10, as well as a trip to Erie, Pa., for the Burger King Classic Jan. 19-20.
Coleman said he needs to work on all aspects of his game to become a college star. McKenney added that the big keys will be working on free throws and an outside shot, where signs of improvement were evident last winter.
“Once he gets that, he will be a scary package,” said McKenney.