Jalen Coleman is a sleek 6'-3" guard who is finishing his freshman year at Indianapolis Cathedral. He has all the tools to be a special player as he matures, and they were on display last weekend at the Spring Showdown in Merrillville, Indiana.
Coleman is playing up a year with his 16 and Under Spiece Indy Heat AAU team, and he's more than keeping up with players a year older than him. He prefers the challenge.
"Yes sir, it is beneficial. I like it a lot. I get to see a lot of older players, and I learn a lot from older players. It improves my game even more."
Heat coach Bennett Summersett sings Coleman's praises.
"Jalen is doing great. He's a very talented young man, and he's going to be really good."
The 6'-3" guard has all the tools to be outstanding, as Summersett describes.
"Jalen's a very well-rounded young man. He can handle the basketball. He's long, and he's going to continue to grow. His jump shot is very pure, and it's very easy for him. He can really jump into it. He's going to continue to improve and become a special player."
Coleman's shot is difficult to block because of how high he leaps. He has an explosive first step on penetration, making him doubly difficult to defend, and he is versatile enough to find the open man if his path to the hoop is blocked. Summersett was surprised to see Coleman jump into his free throws, but he made seven in a row. The young man is also a willing defender.
Coleman provides additional aspects of his game.
"I would say I'm a guard, point guard or two guard. I'm a playmaker. I go hard every time. I'm a winner, so whatever it takes to win, that's what I want to do. And I'm a leader."
Coleman has visited Illinois already, although it was before new head coach John Groce was hired. He has since developed a relationship with assistant Jamall Walker, who has a connection with the Spiece program.
"I went down on a visit, and I enjoyed myself. I liked the atmosphere at Illinois. It's a basketball school. I actually know the the old staff better, but I've talked to the new assistant coach."
Numerous colleges have already made contact with the budding star.
"Right now, I haven't visited very many schools, so I don't have a favorite so far. The people who are actually interested in me include Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and some other schools. I've talked to Georgia Tech also."
He plays high school ball with Collin Hartmann, who is committed to Indiana. While Coleman wants to learn from his elder, he won't necessarily follow his college footsteps.
"No, not really. I'm just enjoying my time with him right now. I'm learning a lot from the older guys. Most of our players right now our seniors, so I'm learning a lot from the older guys.
"I can't focus too much on college. I just want to work on my game right now."
Indianapolis Cathedral should be outstanding this winter.
"Our ranking is #1 so far. So hopefully we will be good. We started right after the break getting prepared."
Coleman believes he is still growing. He feels he can play point guard well regardless of his final height.
"I hope to keep growing. My granddad is 6'-6". There are point guards who are tall out there, so that's not a problem."
He also has the benefit of some solid summer coaching. Summersett and his assistant both took Coleman aside during his games to help him understand better ways of responding to situations. That is uncommon in AAU tournaments.
"We're trying to make sure all our team, Jalen included, gets better," Summersett explained. "That's what we believe the summer is for. Obviously, college coaches can watch us during open periods, and that's a plus. But at the same time, we are making sure that they improve their game, improve in all areas.
"My assistant and I have a high school background in coaching. These kids we're coaching are talented basketball players, and that's great. Now, if we can make sure they understand the game a little better, situations and stuff like that, that's a plus for their high school teams."
The Illini basketball program has seen precious few Indiana products matriculate across the border. Whether Groce, Walker and the other new Illini assistants can entice Coleman to Champaign remains to be seen. But there is renewed optimism in that regard.
Coleman will someday be a tremendous asset to some lucky college program.