When Ronald Coleman first arrived in Ann Arbor last year, he was initially slated to play more of a support role on a team that had three veteran players in the backcourt. The time spent observing was supposed to help ease his transition from playing the post in high school, to playing on the wing in college. Unfortunately, that plan was altered drastically by the absences of Daniel Horton and Lester Abram last year. As a result, the former Romulus star was thrust into the starting rotation and was counted on to provide a great deal of the perimeter scoring. The trial by fire didn't always go smoothly, but it was definitely a learning experience.
Coleman's development continued in the offseason when he was chosen to participate on the Big Ten Foreign Tour. The demands placed upon him during the season and on the tour were obviously more than he anticipated seeing so early in his career, but his head coach feels the youngster has handled them about as well as could be expected. "Last year we put him in situations that he probably wasn't ready for, but given the circumstances that we had no choice," said Michigan headman Tommy Amaker. "I thought he handled it as well as any freshman could. He had a terrific summer. He played very well for the Big Ten All-star team. Bruce Weber was the head coach of that team, and we talked to him about Ronnie's play. He was very impressed with him. He was one of the better players on that team. The way that he handled himself in being a consistent, hard worker ...those are things that we've come to expect from him. "
Now that Amaker has his full compliment of players at his disposal again, it seems logical that his expectations for Coleman would decrease. The truth is, he is asking his 6-6 sophomore to do more. "Because Brent is out we were looking at different combinations…if we need to go small," Amaker said. "We anticipate using Ronnie at the four, certainly now that Brent is out for a bit. It's an opportunity for us to see if we can utilize that kind of a lineup."
For Coleman, playing the four doesn't mean he will not see time on the wing as well. He is being asked to play both positions, which has been a daunting task at times. "It's a lot," Coleman said. "There are a lot of plays I have to remember…almost every position on the court. Right when I get subbed out at the four, sometimes I'll come right back in at the three. But it helps me out a lot. It gets me conditioned and it helps me know what everyone is supposed to be doing on the floor."
Coleman's high school post experience has made it somewhat easier to play in the paint now. However, playing down low at this level has presented a host of new challenges. His lack of size could be a hindrance at times, but it can also be an asset. His teammates have played huge part in helping him figure it all out. "I've still got to adjust to the plays," Coleman explained. "I basically ran the four and the five in high school so I'm kind of used to it, but it has been a big adjustment. It's going to be a little tough when we play bigger teams. I'm going to have to guard bigger people. Unfortunately I'm going to have to guard guys 6-10 and bigger…stronger people. At the same time, I've been out on the wing, so I have some advantages too. I might have to guard them inside, but they are going to have to come outside to guard me. Chris (Hunter) and Graham (Brown) have given me a lot of help on how to play post-D against these bigger guys, and it's helping me out a lot."
For the second straight season, there appears to be a great deal on Ronnie Coleman's plate. However, as tough as it is, the 6-6 forward feels it's for the best. "I think they pretty much knew I could play down low," he said. "In practice I do a good job of running the floor. I can beat guys down the floor and post up hard. Coach emphasizes getting the ball down low, so if I get it down there, I can score or kick it back out. That's why they've experimented with having me down there…and it has paid off."