Grad transfer Coleman finds strength through faith

Sofia Moraga | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Justin Coleman, 12, drives into the lane during the Arizona-Chaminade exhibition game on Sunday, Nov. 4 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Justin Coleman lost his confidence in his freshman year at Alabama. 

The No. 1-ranked player in the state of Alabama (coming out of high school), Coleman started just nine games and averaged 4.3 points per game in the 2014-15 season. The 5-foot-10 point guard pointed to advanced scouting reports, the hectic life of a student-athlete and the high level of competition as examples of his adversity. 

Four years later, the grad transfer considers himself a changed man and one that is ready to be the leader for Arizona, crediting his faith for his turnaround.

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“I felt like that was my biggest low point, but it was a lesson learned. It just made me commit my life to God,” Coleman said. 

This turning point gave the Birmingham, Ala. native an epiphany that completely changed how he viewed life and basketball. 

Men's bball v West New Mexico University
Arizona's Justin Coleman, 12, passes the pass through West New Mexico University's defense during the Arizona-West New Mexico University game on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

“I realized basketball is not about me, it’s about the others that surround me. So when I walk in the gym, I don’t focus on myself getting better. I focus on how I can help my team get better.”

The “we before me” mentality Coleman adopted is already evident in the way he plays the game – head coach Sean Miller called Coleman a “true throwback point guard, somebody who thinks pass before shoot.” 

Coleman has so far embodied his new outlook on life and basketball in the short amount of time he’s been part of the Arizona basketball program. Elected captain by his teammates, Coleman feels right at home with his new team despite being across the country from his family. 

“Those guys are my brothers, I would do anything for those guys. We just spend a lot of time off the court,” Coleman said “Like, sometimes we’d go bowling, sometimes we might play Fortnite, 2K. We just spend a lot of time off the court.”

It’s not every day that a player who just got to campus is already one of the team’s most trusted faces, yet Coleman’s case is different. He’s been around the block a few times, seen the ups and downs of college basketball life and how to adjust to adversity on the fly. 

“A benefit for a grad transfer: I’ve been through a lot. So the things I’ve been through I see the younger guys going through, so I just give them some advice that helped me through it,” Coleman said.

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Taking the future faces of the program like Brandon Williams and Brandon Randolph under his wing has given Coleman the credibility as a leader in the locker room and on the court. 

Even during team scrimmages, Coleman stands out among his teammates.

Basketball Red Blue Game
Arizona's Justin Coleman, 12, looks across the court to find somewhere to pass the ball during the Red-Blue game on Sunday, Oct. 14 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

“It’s kind of unfair when coach puts him on the same team as me,” Williams said. “I think we [get] along with each other good, just coming off ball screens or him looking for me or him cutting.”

A calmer, more confident Coleman will begin the season as the team’s point guard – a big responsibility at a program nicknamed “Point Guard U.” But Coleman said he’s more than capable of handling that role.

“I just spend hours every day praying to God that he just give me the confidence and strength and lead these guys and lead us back to another NCAA Tournament.”

Coleman’s leap of faith to transfer twice in his collegiate career has seemed to have paid off, as he’s landed at one of the premier programs on the West Coast, a privilege the Wildcat point guard doesn’t take lightly.   

“A lot of guys wish they could be here, so I’m just very blessed,” Coleman said.

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