What was once a seemingly key piece to the 2015-2016 Syracuse Orange basketball season seems to have fallen by the wayside now that the NCAA rulings have been handed down. Thomas Bryant was expected by most to wind up wearing Syracuse across his chest next season, with the 5-star center projected to start from day one for the Orange. Of course now there appears to be no sure way to fit him onto the roster, though it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility.
And now what this means is that Syracuse will be left looking inside the program for a solution to the problem of replacing Rakeem Christmas. The good news is that there’s a big bodied, McDonald’s All-America center already wearing orange. The bad news is that he hasn’t played in a basketball game in over a year, and missed the entire 2014-2015 season with an injury.
The last time Dajuan Coleman took the court was on January 7, 2014 against Virginia Tech, a game in which he logged just three minutes of action before the decision was made to shut him down for the tail end of the 2013-2014 season. While Coleman got into tremendous shape in the offseason, he still wasn’t able to get his health to where it needed to be in order to play last year, and almost exactly a year after that game against the Hokies the choice was made to officially put him on the shelf until next season.
Obviously, the now seemingly chronic injuries are worrisome. There’s no telling if Coleman will ever become the player many expected him to be when he signed with the Orange over Kentucky. The injury to Coleman’s knees was the result of deteriorated cartilage, for which he underwent an “OATS procedure” – which treats damage to cartilage without requiring microfracture surgery.
And now, it appears that much of the weight of next season will be resting on Coleman and his surgically repaired knee. The good news is that while Coleman has not played in a game in over a year, he’s continued to work out and practice with the team and by all accounts has looked very good. The slimmed down 6-foot-9 center was drawing praise from Mike Hopkins just a month ago, with Coach Hop saying that “he has had unbelievable days.”
With Bryant more than likely off the table, and with the still very raw Chino Obokoh the lone true center on next year’s roster outside of Coleman, it’ll be extremely important for the team for Dajuan to regain his form and fulfill his promise. Obviously, he should not be expected to put up Rakeem Christmas-like numbers, particularly after a year away from competitive basketball. But his size, particularly as it pertains to rebounding (an area that often killed the Orange against teams like North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia this season), as well as his familiarity with Jim Boeheim’s system suddenly make him one of the most integral parts of roster next season.
If Coleman can come back and man the center position, it’ll enable Boeheim to keep from playing Chris McCullough at the five, and it’ll allow the coach the opportunity to bring incoming freshman Moustapha Diagne (who is more of a power forward than a center due to his size) along more slowly, while relying on Obokoh purely for depth.
Coleman has appeared in 37 games in his injury plagued Syracuse career, averaging 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. However, his points and rebounds per 40 minutes are pretty stellar – 14.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per 40 minutes for his career. Clearly, Coleman has the ability to succeed. Now he just needs to be able to stay on the court.