Monday, December 1, 2014

Don Coleman: A Timeline

Butler's Don Coleman in a recent win over Aquinas

The senior season of Butler High School and future Florida Atlantic guard Don Coleman is one of eight Augusta basketball stories I will closely track.  I first got familiar with Coleman the summer between his eighth and ninth grade years.  He played for a friend's AAU team.  I featured the team on the old blog. Since then I have watched him, coached against him, officiated some of his summer games, and written and put together videos about his play.  He will play his college basketball for a friend, Mike Curry, an Augusta native and former NBA veteran and head coach.  Here I will share the timeline of Don's basketball development, from my perspective.  But before I get to X's and O's I'll share what I know about Don as a person.

Being nice to people is free and quite easy.  But I think it is more exceptional than common.  Don is a nice guy.  We rarely speak more than a few words at a time.  But he always says hello and good bye.  If it's been a while since we've talked he usually writes (or messages on social media or whatever the kids do these days!).  He calls me "sir" and "coach," which besides making me feel old (which I am), makes me like him and cheer for him even more.

Furthermore, whether he knows it or not, he has been proving me wrong for years. When I first saw him play, I thought his AAU teammates Reggie Reid and Jashawn Brooks had more potential. These days, Don can play with anybody in our area (understatement). As a ninth grader, I saw him as a slashing player with point guard skills who lacked a deep shot. He proceeded to bomb away from three that Spring in an AugBball league, most memorably (to me) against my GAIS Eagles squad! During his sophomore season, I believed he needed to defer more to seniors Marquis Leverett and Ronald Jones for his Butler squad to make real noise in their region. Don proceeded to score over 35 twice and over 40 twice against the best teams on the schedule (Laney, Glenn Hills, and Statesboro), and lead the Bulldogs to a regular season sub region title, a runner up region tournament finish, and a 4-2 record against the aforementioned teams.

Right before taking a break from following most area basketball for a season I saw Butler play Aquinas in the first game of Don's junior season. I didn't think he played well and that he forced things way too much on offense. A year later I returned to the gym and saw Reggie Reid play. Having just seen Reggie as a mature senior and having not seen Don play an official high school game for twelve months, I told a friend that I bet Coach Curry wished he could go back in time and give the scholarship he gave to Don to Reggie. What a stupid thing to say. I have coached zero NBA teams in my life, so where do I get off second guessing one of my former mentors? But to my credit, I quickly changed my tune after seeing Don play like the Division 1 guard he is ten days ago in the Will Avery Tip-Off tournament at Evans.

So I am finished playing expert with Don's game. Instead I will relax and enjoy his last season in town. And I'll cheer for his Butler teammates and him. They are fun to watch and poised to make noise in Augusta's most impressive region. But before the season gets well underway, I'll share the notable points (again from my perspective) in Coleman's hoops journey these past few years.

Summer of 2011
During the summer before Don's freshman year, I quickly recognized his ability to beat defenders off the dribble, find teammates for easy baskets, finish with either hand, and most importantly, to play his best when the opponents were the toughest and the moment was most important.  Playing in 14u AAU tournaments in Orlando and Las Vegas alongside the guys who, along with Don, have since become our area's best players, his Southern Kings went deep into bracket play in both events.

I remember thinking that although Reggie and Jashawn looked the most polished and were at the time more highly regarded, Don and lefty AJ Gray (currently marching his Washington County football squad to a possible state title) impressed me most with their guts, aggressiveness, and knack for playing best when the opponents are the best.

See Don in action as a rising 9th grader here:

Spring of 2012
The following Spring, after Don had recently finished contributing nicely off the bench to the Butler varsity team's success, he played in the AugBball Spring league.  At this point I had never seen him shoot well from long range.  I don't know if this league was the first time he started shooting the ball well from deep or if it was simply the first time I saw him do it.  Either way, I got an up close look as he lit up my GAIS Eagles once during this league and once again in the following summer league.

See Don in action against my old GAIS Eagles in Spring League action (2012) here:

Winter of 2012:  Don's Sophomore Season
The beginning of Coleman's sophomore season was a time when I was following local high school basketball closely.  Don started the season off with a bang, scoring 37 points in a win versus Laney at the thanksgiving tournament at ARC. See here:

Winter of 2013:  Don Pours in the Points
As his sophomore season progressed, I would wrongly say that teammate Ronald Jones would need to be a bigger part of the offense for Butler to be successful.  By the end of the season, Don had amassed a statistical record that is second to none, scoring over 35 twice in wins over Laney and Glenn Hills, scoring over 40 in a sub region regular season title clinching win over Glenn Hills, and tossing in 49 points in a loss to Statesboro in the region tournament championship game.  See Don in action against Glenn Hills here:

Recent Action
I took much of Don's junior season off when it comes to following local basketball closely.  So when I saw him play recently at Evans High School, I was shocked at his progression.  He let scoring opportunities come to him in the flow of the game.  He shot the ball extremely well.  And he went out of his way to include teammates and put them in position to be successful.  Little things stood out, like whipping passes to teammates with his left hand while dribbling left.  And most importantly, his play, and that of his teammates, will make Butler one of our area's best teams.  The region including Butler, Laney, Glenn Hills, Washington County, Westside, and Josey will be our area's best and most exciting.  I'm looking forward to seeing Don and his Butler teammates during his fourth and final season in Augusta. See Don and his teammates in the first game of the 2014-15 season here:

***Here are some posts from the pasts about Don and the Butler Bulldogs.***

Nov 24, 2014
Friday at the Will Avery Tip-Off Tournament

Aug 27, 2013
Coleman Measures Up Nicely

Jan 3, 2013
Butler Controls its Destiny

Jan 24, 2013
Butler's Coleman does it Again

Dec 1, 2012
Thoughts from the Weekend:  Butler

Nov 23, 2012
Thanksgiving Classic Notes:  Butler Bulldogs

Aug 1, 2011

July 21, 2011
Southern Kings 14u AAU Team Returns from Orlando, and Heads to Las Vegas

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