AUGUSTA, Ga. — Matt Coleman might not have expected to become such a featured attraction this week.
The senior point guard’s travel team, Boo Williams, failed to qualify for the Peach Jam and thus is playing in Nike’s subordinate event, the Peach Invitational.
But Coleman has managed to steal away a few headlines from the Peach Jam, never an easy feat. And this, despite nearly choosing to sit out the week.
”At first I wasn’t going to play, I was just going to rest up and get ready for USA (Basketball),” Coleman said. “But my team needed me, so I just played my minutes when needed and got it done.”
Coleman has steadied the ship all week, showcasing his outstanding pure point guard skills. The slender southpaw also appears a hair quicker than last year and has become a more vertical penetrator, rather than someone who more frequently passes the ball around the perimeter.
The results have paid off with more robust scoring numbers — to accompany his always tremendous playmaking — and more wins for his team, which was shorthanded on the EYBL circuit but has been successful this week.
Keeping with the theme of the unexpected, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams watched Coleman in his first two outings in Augusta. The Tar Heels had expressed interest in Coleman earlier in his recruitment - including hosting him for campus visits - but they seemed to back off last year and contacted him very little during his junior season or this past spring.
And yet, in mid-July during the final week of Nike play, the Tar Heels clearly have made an effort to get involved — and a scholarship offer may be forthcoming.
”I can see (an offer) coming real soon, maybe after this weekend,” Coleman said. “They wanted me to come and visit while I was in Winston at the CP3 camp, but I just couldn’t get down there because I went down by myself and had no way to get there.”
The unavoidable question is what caused the dynamic to change, both in terms of the apparent lack of interest earlier and now the sudden upturn.
”They have Jalek (Felton), I think they were comfortable with Jalek playing the point guard position,” Coleman said. “(But) they talked to me recently and said, ‘We play two guards and feel like you could come in and run the show with Jalek. Y’all can play off each other hand in hand.'
”They’re trying to build a new relationship because they missed out, not hearing from them,” he said. “It’s kind of like starting from scratch.”
Coleman noted that UNC reopened dialogue a couple weeks ago, primarily through Hubert Davis. The Tidewater, Virginia native also has spoken to Williams himself.
”I talked to (Roy Williams) one time like two weeks ago,” Coleman said. “We had a long conversation and he broke down how he’s going to be more involved. He said he’s sorry for fading away, but he said, ‘Matt, you’ll see more of me and my assistants at your games.’”
While UNC clearly has ground to make up — Texas, Louisville, Arizona, N.C. State, Ohio State and others have been committed to the chase — he said he’s open to the new overture and would like to take an unofficial visit to Chapel Hill in August.
Coleman soon will depart to play with USA Basketball for roughly two weeks, competing internationally in Chile. Thus, Carolina has a matter of days to issue an offer prior to his taking that trip.
The Tar Heels’ intentions should become clear one way or the other very soon, and heading into the weekend their aspirations appear affirmative and emphatic.