This Saturday, Syracuse will be taking the court in the Carrier Dome for the final time in the 2016-17 season. With a record of 17-13 and the team sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, it’s been a disappointing season for the Orange. But it’s hard to imagine anyone is as disappointed as Dajuan Coleman surely must be.
It’s kind of amazing to realize that Coleman’s career at Syracuse is already, essentially, over. It feels like he’s been wearing Orange forever, thanks largely to a series of nagging injuries that have plagued him over the years. But he’s still only managed to play in 90 games, logging an average of just 15.4 minutes-per-game over that span.
Yet at the end of the day, despite his career not panning out the way anyone – himself, especially, you would assume – expected, the big guy from Jamesville-Dewitt deserves one hell of a send off on Saturday when the Orange host Georgia Tech.
Maybe the saddest part of this year’s senior day is the fact that Coleman, who has worked so tirelessly to both get into better shape and recover and prevent injuries, may not even see the floor against Georgia Tech. The former McDonald’s All-America center, who chose his hometown team over Kentucky, hasn’t appeared in a game since January 24, when he logged 12 minutes against Wake Forest.
In fact, Coleman has only played three times in 2017, also making appearances against Miami (for just one minute) and Notre Dame (when no one was more surprised than Coleman that he got 23 minutes).
Unfortunately, it just seems that he’s never fully recovered from those same injuries that have nagged him throughout his time at Syracuse.
Boeheim on Dajuan Coleman: "He's done everything he can to overcome some very crippling injuries…it's sad to see b/c he's tried so hard."
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) February 27, 2017
Despite his inability to stay healthy from a physical standpoint, his enthusiasm and leadership certainly appear to be just as healthy as ever. Watch any Syracuse game, and you’ll see the 6-foot-9, 250 pounder rooting on his teammates, even while knowing his time on the court and, in all likelihood, in the sport of basketball is dwindling.
His stats have never been gaudy at Syracuse, averaging 5.0 points and 4.5 rebounds-per-game while shooting 51.8% from the field. But there’s no denying that the man worked his ass off to get into the best playing shape of his life, and develop his game once he lost his explosiveness in the post due to his chronic knee issues. Coleman became a solid shooter out to about 12-15 feet, which he put on display in some of the team’s games earlier this year.
Coleman came into Syracuse with expectations that he perhaps never could have hoped to meet. That’s part of what happens when you’re a local kid playing in front of 30,000 fans, the pressure to succeed continuing to mount just because you grew up down the road. Being a hometown hero is never easy, particularly when your body just refuses to comply, instead gradually breaking down under the rigors of being such a large human being playing such a physical style, in a physical sport.
While things haven’t gone the way Dajuan Coleman or anyone else hoped, I know that I, for one, am appreciative as hell of the work he’s put in to try to improve himself and help the team. So I’d just like to end by saying a very simple thank you, Dajuan. Here’s hoping you get one last moment to shine in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.