Coleman sees Chaps as last chance to learn from mistakes
Like many players that go the junior college route during their basketball playing career, sophomore swingman Justin Coleman was just looking for a second chance when he got to Midland College.
Coleman, a 6-foot-6 guard/forward from Richmond, Va., said he never saw that he was his own worst enemy until he landed with the Chaparrals. He bounced around from high school after high school. Then after not qualifying academically for the University of Louisville, he went to Marshall University. But after just one season, Coleman was dismissed from Marshall for conduct detrimental to the team.
He knew he needed a change in more ways than one.
"I guess the problem must have been me," Coleman said. "My attitude was bad. A lot of people said I had an attitude problem but I never saw it. If I keep bouncing around, there must be something wrong. I'm taking it as a learning experience and learning what not to do. I'm a lot more mature than I was the last semester, so that helps a lot.
"I want to change as a person, become a better person, a little more responsible. This year is going to make me or break me. I'm going to try not to let it break me."
When he started to look around at junior colleges, he heard from a friend back home about Midland College. He was told about the program, the coaching staff and facilities. Then after some convincing from MC assistant coach Jeff Mailhot, Coleman decided MC was the right place for him.
"We kind of gave him an opportunity to come here and said, 'Hey, this is how it's going to be,'" MC head coach Chris Craig said. "'It's going to be hard, it's going to be a grind every day, you're going to get coached, there's going to be demands on you.' And he's done a pretty good job.
"It hasn't been smooth sailing every step of the way but he's certainly made gradual improvements since August and I look forward to watching him continue to grow as a person."
Heading into today's Western Junior College Athletic Conference opener at Howard College, Coleman is the Chaparrals' leading scorer with 17.1 points per game and is adding 5.7 rebounds per contest.
When Coleman is on the court, it's easy to see why he was a Division I recruit. Not only does he have good size, but is very athletic, can shoot the ball at a high percentage, can rebound and he can be a solid defender.
"He's got to get better at some of his decision making, but he's a two-way player," Craig said. "He's an offensive and defensive player, he rebounds the ball well and he's a good teammate."
Coleman said he never was much of a leader in high school just because he didn't realize how important he was to his team at the time. He said being aware of his importance has been part of his maturity.
"In high school I didn't want to take authority, but this year with this team I know I know I'm one of the best players and I know the team looks at me to do more stuff," he said. "I just try to give them as good of an effort as I can and I do as many different things that I can, whatever I have to do to help my team."
Now he wants to help his team navigate through one of the toughest junior college basketball conferences in the country. And the Chaps (9-2 overall) don't have an easy opener as they play a Howard College team that is coming in with an 12-1 record and a No. 2 ranking in the NJCAA Division I men's basketball poll. The Chaps also return to a place where they saw a unfortunate bench-clearing altercation with the Hawks last February that resulted in MC players being suspended and the forfeitures of two WJCAC games, which caused the Chaps to miss out on the postseason for the first time since 2003.
Coleman said this game will be a brand new start for everybody involved.
"They said that a trip to Big Spring basically ended the season," Coleman said. "This year it's supposed to begin our season."
As the Chaps look to turn the page on last season, so does Coleman as he hopes this season will get him back to a Division I four-year school.
" I feel pretty good about where our team is heading and the way we're looking," he said. "I feel like I'm playing pretty well. There are a lot of things I could do a lot better but it comes with time and work put into the season. I also feel I could be more of a leader, although I am doing a pretty good job right now."
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AT NO. 2 HOWARD COLLEGE
When/where: 7:45 p.m., Dorothy Garrett Coliseum, Big Spring
Records: Midland College 9-2 overall, 0-0 in Western Junior College Athletic Conference; Howard College 12-1, 0-0
Notes & quotes: This is the WJCAC opener for both teams. ... MC comes in with a three-game winning streak, including a 98-51 home victory over Weatherford College on Thursday. MC was without two key players in sophomore F Tiegbe Bamba and sophomore G Corey Hilliard in that game as they were still back home attending to personal matters. Both should be back for tonight's game. ... MC's second-year coach Chris Craig said he likes his team's focus heading into this game. "You can recruit to this league because of the high level of competition and the guys come to this league to play in the WJCAC, and that time is here," Craig said. "It's exciting for the guys who were here last year and it's exciting for the newcomers." ... Craig said the Hawks have a really good team and can really shoot the ball. Cameron Forte, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward and one-time Texas Tech signee, is leading Howard with 22.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Jacob Thomas, a 6-4 sophomore guard, chips in with 16.2 ppg, and Phillip Miller, a 6-2 freshman guard, is averaging 14.9 ppg.
Next: Midland College at South Plains College, 7:45 p.m. Thursday; Clarendon College at Howard College, 7:45 p.m. Thursday
Midland College Men's Statistics
Player GP FG FT FTA Pts. Avg. Reb. RPG
Justin Coleman 9 60 21 26 154 17.1 51 5.7
Tiegbe Bamba 10 46 26 39 128 12.8 71 7.1
Kiwi Gardner 10 34 34 45 115 11.5 24 2.4
Aly Ahmed 10 24 26 32 74 7.4 47 4.7
Gary Akbar 10 24 23 45 71 7.1 54 5.4
Willis Nicholson 9 15 23 27 58 6.4 19 2.1
Colan Weasby 9 16 4 10 49 5.4 29 3.2
Ede Eghareba 8 13 6 12 39 4.9 13 1.6
Corey Hilliard 7 12 2 6 32 4.6 17 2.4
Brandon Lucas 8 14 3 5 35 4.4 15 1.9
Anthony Norris 9 15 6 9 38 4.2 27 3.0
Shevon Thompson 10 11 3 10 25 2.5 18 1.8
DJ Billingsley 8 1 1 4 3 0.4 2 0.3
Brandon Maclin 7 0 0 0 0 0.0 3 0.4
Totals 10 285 178 270 821 82.1 424 42.4
3-point goals (73) -- Coleman 13, Gardner 13, Weasby 13, Eghareba 7, Hilliard 6, Nicholson 5, Lucas 4, Norris 2
Men's WJCAC standings
W L W L
Howard College 0 0 12 1
New Mexico JC 0 0 12 2
South Plains 0 0 11 2
Midland College 0 0 9 2
Odessa College 0 0 10 3
Frank Phillips 0 0 10 4
Western Texas 0 0 10 4
New Mexico Military 0 0 4 9
Midland College at Howard College; Frank Phillips at Clarendon College; South Plains at NMMI; Western Texas at Odessa College