Increasingly underestimated, Coleman aims to send message

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DaJuan Coleman's body belies his athleticism. (Photo by Lonnie Webb)  
DaJuan Coleman's body belies his athleticism. (Photo by Lonnie Webb)    
DaJuan Coleman
Height: 6'9"
Weight: 280 lbs.
High School: Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.)
AAU team: Albany City Rocks
Position: Center
Comparison: Zach Randolph

Why he's No. 1: Can dominate around the rim with his size and rebounding ability; has great hands and solid post moves. Developing other parts of his game.

Why he's not No. 1: Needs to stay in shape and avoid foul trouble; also has to dominate on a more consistent basis.

What kind of pro: Doesn't have unlimited upside, but players of his size and strength are always needed in the NBA.

Recruiting: Syracuse, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio State, West Virginia, Connecticut

The first thing one notices when watching DaJuan Coleman is the resemblance to another upstate New York legend.

But let's get one thing clear: DaJuan Coleman is not related to Derrick Coleman.

They may have a similar build, the same last name and the same hometown, but they have no blood connection and the No. 4 prospect would prefer if the constant linkage stopped.

"I don't think he wants that comparison made anymore," Jim Hart, Coleman's AAU coach with the Albany City Rocks, said. "It's like, 'I'm one of the top players in the country. Compare me to someone else.' "

Coleman, a 6-foot-9, 280-lb. center from Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.), is ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the 2012 rankings. When compared to the other top players in the country, though, it's often with the caveat that Coleman doesn't have the same potential.

He is a wide body and prefers to bang around the basket but doesn't have the eye-popping athleticism that Andre Drummond or Isaiah Austin possess. Hart disagrees, pointing out that Coleman broke the Sparq testing record for a high school athlete when he was evaluated in January.

"I think looks can be deceiving. You would think he's not athletic, just by looking at him, but he has the best footwork I've ever seen for his size. People see length and talk about the ceiling of Drummond and some other guys, saying they have an unbelievably high ceiling," he said. "Well, ceilings aren't always as accurate they seem."

With other big men starting to surpass Coleman in the eyes of many, the normally humble post player is looking to send a message on the July circuit.

More on Recruiting

"Right now, he has a very quiet determination to go out and give it to everyone," Hart said. "He wants to finish the summer recognized as the number one player in the country.

"I don't think he's concerned, but he's motivated. He wants to prove he's better than Drummond and these other guys. People like accolades."

Being underestimated is nothing new to Coleman, who hails from a part of New York that most people don't associate with basketball. Since it's not New York City or its surrounding areas, Hart said there's something of a stigma attached to Coleman and his supposed level of competition.

According to Hart, though, upstate New York has the upper hand on New York City over the last decade in terms of producing talent. With the proliferation of AAU basketball, the top players are playing against each other -- regardless of location.

"People talk about the city versus upstate," Hart said. "With AAU, players are getting national exposure. It's one country now. And if you look at upstate over the last 10 years, it's considerably better than the city. Andray Blatche, Paul Harris, Jimmer Fredette, guys like that. He's won three straight state championships, so he's played against everyone."

In terms of recruiting, Coleman is taking his time with the process. Plenty of schools are on his trail, but Hart said he is looking at Syracuse, Kentucky, North Carolina, Connecticut, West Virginia and Ohio State. After the summer, Coleman plans on taking three or four official visits and then making his decision in the late fall.

Two programs are separating themselves as the teams to beat, including the hometown Orange.

"When you get a kid like that, you can eliminate everyone except about 20 schools," Hart said. "And with him, the backyard option is in that top 20.

"I think Syracuse and Kentucky are 1 and 1A, though."

One of the words that comes up the most when talking to people about Coleman is "loyal." As a result, Hart expects the quiet big man to have a traditional recruiting process -- there won't be too many twists and turns, unlike many of the top prospects in the last few years.

"DaJuan's got a lot of good, good people in his ear," Hart said. "He's got the right people close to him."

And, no, one of them is not Derrick Coleman.


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