DaJuan Coleman has had one of the most scrutinized careers in recent Syracuse basketball memory. He has been considered a bust that has not lived up to his five-star billing out of local Jamesville-DeWitt High School. Being that local product has probably made the criticism a bit more frequent than normal.
That said, never has there been a team that has needed him more than the 2015-16 version of the Orange. There is a significant lack of depth inside, so Coleman's presence is needed defensively and on the glass. Despite that, his minutes and productivity have been inconsistent, much like his career.
Recently, however, Coleman has stepped up. In the last three games, the redshirt junior center is averaging 10.3 points, six rebounds and one block per game while shooting 69% from the floor and 82% from the free-throw line. This despite playing only 17 minutes per game. His numbers per 40 minutes would be 24 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
Yes he has faced Cornell, Montana State and Texas Southern, not exactly murderer's row of college basketball. But he has faced inferior competition before without the same production.
Those numbers are the best three-game production of any such stretch during his time in a Syracuse uniform.
Only one other time did his numbers come close. That was against Eastern Michigan, Long Beach State and Monmouth as a true freshman in 2012-13. During that stretch he averaged 9.7 points, nine rebounds and one block per game, but that was in 24 minutes. Coleman also only shot 47% from the floor and 65% from the foul line. Per 40 minutes, Coleman averaged 16 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
Similar production, but less scoring and less efficient. Other than those three games three years ago, the last three contets have been easily the best of Coleman's career. It's not close.
Coleman seems to be getting more comfortable as the season goes along. Both with his role and with his health. His knees finally seem to be stable and he is gaining more and more trust in them with each game.
As Syracuse enters conference play against teams that have much more size and physicality inside, Coleman's presence becomes even more important. Just like it was in the Battle 4 Atlantis where Coleman played well. That helped the Orange upset two ranked opponents.
If Syracuse is take that next step as a team this season, he will have to continue his recent production, limit foul trouble, stay on the floor, and continue to be efficient on both ends of the floor. Regardless of recent opponents, what we've seen from Coleman has been encouraging. Now he has to keep it going.
"We need those seven rebounds in 20 minutes," head coach Mike Hopkins said. "We need physical presence so when we play against those guys in our league and they are in there, he is banging, battling, putting his weight on them and tiring those guys out.”