Big Kid on the Block
Derrick Coleman is NOT my father.
by Quinn Peterson
It’s a mixup that happens far too often. Same size, same initials, same field. One played at Syracuse, the other calls it his hometown. And, especially upon first glance, there’s a striking resemblance.
But Derrick Coleman is not DaJuan Coleman’s father.
“There will be tournaments and stuff and people are always asking me, is that my father? Naw, that’s not my father,” said DaJuan.
Though the two aren’t related, they could certainly be on the same path. Derrick Coleman, of course, was a high school legend in Detroit, All-American at Syracuse, and eventual No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Likewise, DaJuan Coleman, is one of the top players high school players in the country, looking to take his talents to college and hopefully the League soon after.
He’s been hard at work this summer to make that a possibility.
“It’s been real good,” he said about his summer. This year, Coleman has played at the adidas Nations Global Experience in Chicago, the LeBron James Skills Academy and made his rounds on the AAU circuit, playing with the Westchester (NY) Hawks. Most recently, he was patrolling the paint in Venice Beach at Boost Mobile Elite 24.
“I think it’s an honor that I’ve been chosen to be at all this stuff. A couple years back, nobody would ever think that it would be me at all this. So I think it’s a real honor and I’m happy just to be at these tournaments and events.”
“Most kids would get a little big headed, going to LeBron [Skills Academy], going to Amar’e Stoudemire [Skills Academy], adidas Nations, going to all these places, but he stays level-headed with his little grin and little smile. That’s what you want out of these kids nowadays,” said Rasheem Young, Coleman’s AAU Coach. “A lot of kids that I’ve seen in the past are ranked as young kids, and then they become juniors and seniors, and you look up like, What happened to them?”
At 6-9, 280 pounds Coleman is as solid as Ford pickup truck.
“You see him against the 7-5 kid at adidas Nations, most people would look at that kid like, ‘Man, I ain’t guarding this kid.’ But DaJuan banged with the kid every possession,” said Young.
Called a “man amongst boys,” the phrase definitely does Coleman justice, describing a player who once hauled in a New York record 35 rebounds. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, Coleman has helped lead his Jamesville Dewitt (NY) High School team to two consecutive Class A state titles. In the latter, he was named MVP of the tournament — as a sophomore. (Dewitt is the alma mater of former Orangeman Andy Rautins and current player Brandon Triche.)
“Watching DaJuan all his life, since he started playing AAU at the age of 15, he always played up, you know,” said Young. “He always handled that. Now the time has come that he’s playing against kids his age, and he’s dominating the game without taking no plays off. “
Now as a junior, with a summer of hard work behind him, Coleman will continue to look to improve his game.
“I would like to see DaJuan run the floor a little bit more,” said Young. “I would like to see him start the break after he gets a rebound just in case the outlet is jammed up, similar to a Lamar Odom, and be able to make a play at the other end of the floor.”
“I just wanna take my game to a whole ‘nother level,” he said. “Focus on school, make sure my grades are good. Two years from now, I don’t wanna be the same player as I am [now], so I just wanna continue to get better.”
“I think my best [area of the game] is in the low-post, but I really wanna work on being like a Zach Randolph player — start the outlet, start running the court and move out to the wing just a little bit.”
Coleman has a throwback game. While many of today’s youngsters proceed to follow in the footsteps of Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki, big guys who play on the perimeter, Coleman is a true big man, something found with greater and greater rarity nowadays.
“I think it’s important for me [to play big], because most players, they try to play outside of their spot, so me, I just basically choose my spots. I still try to do extra stuff…but I basically just try to stick to my spot and just keep working, and work on the little stuff.”
“I’m sure his game will expand,” said Young. “But he’s always been one of the biggest kids on the court. A kid like that, you want him dominating the game by rebounding, and that’s one of his biggest attributes to the game. He rebounds his ass off, and goes after the basketball.
“I wish he would block more shots. That’s another thing he’ll start to do soon is block more shots. Be extra-active on the backboard, control the whole paint.”
Rated as highly as the No. 1 player in his class since the day he entered high school, that hasn’t limited his work ethic. Today, he remains arguably the top player and center in the class, no matter what recruiting service you ask.
“His work ethic is tremendous,” said Young. “He can go, he can just go. He’s one of those energizer bunnies. He’s gonna sweat, he’s gonna work hard, he’s gonna keep his mouth shut. The best thing I really like about the man is, most of these kids his age are video game heads, but he very rarely plays video games. I always tease him about that. He’s got an old soul.”
“Honestly, I don’t even give in to the hype like that,” he said. “I understand it…but it’s not gonna be there for me my whole life, because once you go to college it’s not thee no more.”
Of course, with lofty rankings come great expectations. Coleman admits there’s pressure at times, but nothing he hasn’t been able to handle.
“It depends on where I’m at. If I’m at Nationals, I feel like there’s [more] pressure than if I’m here at a home tournament in Syracuse. It’s pressure sometimes. Not all the time, though,” he said.
Coleman said he preferred college ball over that of the NBA, listing DeJuan Blair, DeMarcus Cousins and Donte Greene as some of his favorites.
He doesn’t have to worry about popping up on college coaches’ radars either. He’s already on them in clear sight.
Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas, Lousiville, Ohio St., Pittsburgh and North Carolina are some of the schools on his shortlist. He called North Carolina his dream school.
“My coaches, friends, they’ve been with me from day one. I just want to make them all proud.”
“He’s always been a hard worker and a great listener. As long as he continues to do that, I think bright things will be in the future,” said Young.
Derrick Coleman may not be his father, but if he keeps it up, DaJuan Coleman will be receiving many of the same accolades.