Shavon Coleman’s college basketball plans might not have always included a detour through junior college, but once his path veered that way, the former Thibodeaux High star made sure he did everything he could to make the most of it.
And boy did he come close to making that unexpected trip to a remote town in West Texas a memory of a lifetime.
If not for the country’s top-ranked NJCAA Division I team being in the same conference, Coleman might be in the running for a national championship.
Instead, the Howard College season ended a step short of the national tournament Saturday when South Plains College prevailed 84-74 in the Region V championship game.
Coleman did everything he could to get the Hawks past undefeated South Plains, scoring 22 points and snaring 13 rebounds in the loss.
Those numbers were above his season averages: 14.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.
Now, the bouncy and athletic 6-foot-6 Coleman has a choice to make, and LSU is right of middle of his thought process.
The Tigers are one of three finalists in Coleman’s recruitment, joining Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
“I’m looking for a spot where I feel comfortable and have chance to play and be successful,” Coleman said recently. “I love playing the game, but I also want to get my education. I want go where I can compete to start right away and have an impact on the team.”
That doesn’t seem to be a stretch regardless of where he winds up.
Howard College coach Mark Adams said Coleman is versatile enough to play small forward or shooting guard and his athleticism even translates well to a power forward role.
|Howard College coach Mark Adams: 'The big thing with Shavon to start with is that he's a good person – a high character individual – and that makes him very coachable.'|
Like most freshmen, Coleman arrived in Big Spring, Texas, raw and brimming with potential and with Adams’ help, he has harnessed it well for two seasons.
“I think he’s improved in just about every area,” said Adams, who coached Jae Crowder, the Marquette swingman who was named the 2012 Big East Player of the Year last week. “The big thing with Shavon to start with is that he’s a good person – a high character individual – and that makes him very coachable.
“He puts the ball on the on floor and finishes better, and his 3-point shot has improved a lot. He’s very good on the offensive glass because of how explosive he is. And he plays defense much better than when he got here. He anticipates really well and he has long arms so defense comes naturally to him. He likes to get in the passing lanes and contest shots.”
A diverse offensive arsenal is something Coleman takes pride in. He said it’s important for him to make a defense guess what he might do next.
“Putting the ball on the floor and going to the cup is a big part of the game for me,” he said. “I’m best when I’m getting fouled because I think that frustrates the defense. But I’ve also worked hard at shooting the 3 because I know at the next level defenses are going to be too good to just do the same thing over and over.”
To carve out immediate playing time at the Division I level, whatever Coleman contributes on offense will be secondary to how quickly he adjusts to playing defense – particularly if he winds up at LSU.
That notion isn’t lost on him.
“That’s how it is here for Coach Adams,” he said. “You have to defense if you don’t want to get on the floor. The last two years have been very good for me. Coach has taught me well on defense, and now I feel like can guard guards or bigs and that’s made my game way better – taken it to a whole other level.”
Where his next level is at is front and center on Coleman’s to-do list now that the season is over.
He said he will take visits to OU, Texas Tech and LSU this month or in April before pulling the trigger in the late signing period.
Neither of the other two programs is in the postseason after losing seasons. That also means could both use an infusion of talent, which could equate to immediate playing time.
OU just wrapped up its first season under Lon Kruger, who replaced Jeff Capel – whose staff recruited Coleman. Texas Tech wrapped up the debut season under Billy Gillispie with an 8-22 record (1-17 in the Big 12 Conference). Adams’ son, Luke, is a walk-on guard who started at times this season for the Red Raiders.
“Oklahoma was my school coming out of high school,” Coleman said. “I wanted to go there but things have changed.
“Texas Tech has been recruiting me for a very long time. I could go there and be a big-time player, the main guy they can build around.”
For LSU, Coleman could step in for a more established team and a coach entering his fifth season with a team that will likely be expected to make the NCAA Tournament. Johnson made an impression when he flew to Texas to see Coleman play on an off day for the Tigers.
And there is also the obvious pull of playing 60 miles from home.
“If you’re from Louisiana, when you were a kid everybody dreams about playing for your home school,” Coleman said. “LSU recruited me in high school, but not as hard as they are now.
|Trent Johnson: Mid-season trip to howard College made an impression on Coleman.|
“Coach J is a real nice guy, and we had a good talk when he came over and visited. I’d love to play for a guy like Coach Johnson.”
Adams said he and Coleman have spoken about playing close to home and the idea is certainly on the player’s mind.
“He’s very close to his family and I think that will be a factor he weighs pretty heavily,” Adams said. “Having Trent there is important, too. Trent is a straightforward, honest person and that’s the way Shavon is so there’s a natural bond between those two.”