A few good minutes with Houston's Aubrey Coleman
The nation's leading scorer grew up right across the street from the university where he one day would gain a decent measure of notoriety. Aubrey Coleman said he played street ball on courts not too far from the University of Houston, but he never thought he'd end up competing for the Cougars. Neither, it seems, did his mom, Cynthia.
"It's funny," Coleman said Monday afternoon in a telephone interview, "she said she never thought I'd be here doing what I'm doing."
What Coleman is doing is averaging 25.6 points per game and leading Houston into the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. Houston Coach Tom Penders lauds Coleman for his work ethic and for his mid-range jump shot, but Coleman's game has not always been so smooth. He did not play organized basketball until he was a senior in high school, and he said it took him a while to begin to understand team basketball.
"I always played street ball and you can kind of see it in my game a little bit," Coleman said. "When I started playing in 12th grade, I really didn't understand the concept of playing basketball. I would get charges. I would just run over people and try to dunk on them. That's probably why I didn't play a lot in high school. But when I got to junior college, I was in a situation where I had to learn quick because I was the only player at my position that was from out of state. I didn't want to come all the way to Mississippi and sit on the bench, so I worked on my game real hard and all of the sudden it was like every summer I got better. I got better every summer because I worked on my game and kept working hard."
After high school, Coleman spent a year at Gulf Shores Academy, a prep school in Houston, before playing two seasons at Southwest Mississippi Community College. He then Transferred back to the college program right across the street from home.
When asked why he did not play organized ball until his final year of high school, Coleman provided one reason...
"I guess I just wasn't interested in it," Coleman said. "I always loved to play ball on the street and to draw a crowd, but I never just really focused on playing organized ball. But once I started seeing that I was getting good at it ... I was good in high school, but the coach just would never give me a chance. Like, if I got in the game and somebody scored on me or if I got a foul or if I traveled, he would always take me right out. I was just nervous, you know? I could never get into a rhythm in high school."
... but shielded another. Houston Coach Tom Penders said in a phone interview later on Monday that Coleman has a keloid condition that prevented doctors from allowing him to play for much of his high school career. Keloids are excessive growths of scar tissue that occur inside and outside of the body. Cynthia Coleman, Aubrey's mom, has the same condition, according to Penders.
"I didn't ever think that I was going to end up at the University of Houston," Coleman said. "I could have went anywhere else in the nation, but it was a situation where I wanted to be really close to my family and look after my mom. She's going through a little something, so I just wanted to keep her close to me and make sure I was around. My step-daddy keeps a close eye on her. Everything is good. And I have a little brother and sister that are still in high school, so they check on her. And I go home every so often to check on her."
As for his prolific scoring ability, Coleman said he's not all that caught up with the fact that he's leading the country
"It don't matter if I'm leading the nation in scoring," Coleman said. "If we would have never gotten in the tournament, I would have just been another player that came through Houston that was good, you know? And I didn't want to be labeled as that. People saying you can lead the nation in scoring, but if you don't get to the Dance, it don't mean nothing. And just by us getting to the Dance, that's real big for us and this program."
It certainly was big for Penders, who dealt with nearly constant speculation this season that it would be his last at Houston. Coleman said the players couldn't help but be aware of all the chatter about their coach's future.
"We kind of knew it, but we couldn't really focus on that," Coleman said. "We had to continue to play ball. We just tried to make sure it wasn't a distraction for us because at the end of the day, he's a good guy and us winning is big for him. He's a tough guy. He gets on me the most out of everybody. It don't matter if I didn't do it. He always gets on me. You the reason for this; you the reason for that. My first year I didn't know him and I was like, 'This guy is kind of crazy.' But this year I noticed. I was like, 'Okay, I see how it is now.' He just lets his guards play. He just lets us play loose, you know, and leave it all out on the floor. And that's how we won the (Conference USA) tournament; just let us play loose."
Coleman said the only thing he knows about Maryland is "the point guard," referring to Terrapins senior guard Greivis Vasquez.
"It's the ACC, so it's a big-time conference," Coleman said. "But, you know, we're going to play our heart out and play loose because we don't have nothing to lose, and that's how we went into the conference tournament. And we know everybody's bidding against us, and that's good, you know? We've been the underdogs for so long."
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