MIDDLE VILLAGE, New York - Matt Coleman’s decorated high school career, which includes one national championship, came to an end. The end didn’t go as Coleman, an extremely competitive senior guard, hoped or wanted. Some young players will brush it off and look towards the next flight home or to the next event. Not Coleman. He was carrying that heaviness after the game, and will wear it for a while.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a hell of a competitor,” Findlay Prep head coach Paul Washington said after the game.
Thursday afternoon at Christ the King High School, Findlay Prep beat Oak Hill 77-65 in the Dick’s High School Nationals. The Texas commitment, ranked as the No. 35 player overall in the 2017 class, still has things like the Capitol Classic and the Jordan Brand Classic on the horizon. However, his time running arguably the most historic prep hoops program in the country is over.
“He’s been great for us… He’s a facilitator. He’s a pass-first guy. He’s a guy that wants to win. I think he’s going to help Texas,” Oak Hill head coach Steve Smith said after the loss.
Matthew Hatfield (VirginiaPreps.com)
I’ve watched Coleman, a 6-2 lefty, in person a lot over the last two years – a few times at Nike EYBL, multiple times at USA Basketball, and twice in an Oak Hill uniform. So, it’s tough for another look to provide anything truly new. But something stuck with me as Findlay Prep built a double-digit lead, and time started to quickly run out on Oak Hill’s season.
Coleman was surrounded by, as he has been all year, three very talented senior guards – Lindell Wigginton (No. 31 overall; signed with Iowa State), Ty-Shon Alexander (No. 82 overall; signed with Creighton) and Devontae Shuler (No. 106 overall; signed with Ole Miss). All three can really shoot the rock from the perimeter.
Against Findlay Prep, Shuler and Wigginton combined to make 7-of-37 shots, including 3-of-17 from three. Simply put, it was one of those games when good shots didn’t fall. Meanwhile, Coleman attempted just six field goals. As the minutes remaining in his high school career at Oak Hill ticked away, Coleman didn’t stray from who he is. Even as his talented teammates uncharacteristically missed open shot after open shot and his frontcourt was abused inside on defense, Coleman didn’t throw his hands up in the air in disgust – like other teammates did – or start to force his own issue on offense. He made the smart, correct basketball plays over, and over, and over again and made himself heard with both his voice and actions.
“What I like about Matt the first time we played them they weren’t shooting well from the outside, and he hit five three-pointers on us. I said on the scouting report that Matt can’t shoot threes, and he hits five on me,” Washington said with a hearty laugh. “He’s a true, old-school point guard. That goes to show you he does what it takes, and even when they were going down, he still stayed in form; he still was trying to pass to the open man, and he made a couple shots. He just doesn’t crack. He’s solid and consistent. That’s what I like about him.”
Because that’s who Coleman is, a true point guard and a future team leader.
“Matt is going to be really good. His best days are in front of him. He’s comparable to all the point guards I’ve had,” said Smith, who has coached some great ones like Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings, Jeff McInnis, Rajon Rondo, Steve Blake, Rod Strickland, and more. “I’ve coached nine guys that have played in the NBA at that position, and he’s comparable with those guys. He has a chance to play at the highest level because of his abilities at that position, because he’s a leader. Our guys look up to him. They listen to him. When he talks to them, it’s not like they tune him out. He’s a point guard they like to be led by, and that’s part of it too as far as being a point guard.”
When Coleman darted through a press, he tossed oops, found open shooters, and pulled up or drove to the rim when that was the best option. In the half-court against a zone, he moved the ball, directed traffic, and tried to exploit the occasional mismatch. When the four-star point guard consistently beat defenders off the bounce, he drove to pass, and continuously found wide open shooters.
As the clock neared its expiration for the game and his illustrious Oak Hill career, Coleman proved, again, he was about team, and playing smart, quality basketball rather than searching for his, or trying to be something he’s not. He didn’t have to. It’s not like he was going to be benched next game. He could have decided he was going to start launching shots instead of Shuler and Wigginton.
“Prime example, I had to take my point guard out of the game because he kept going one-on-one and we couldn’t get into the rhythm of our offense, and it was all about him. So, he sat for about a whole quarter and we were up 10. And Matt even down 10, he’s still getting into the flow and doing what he’s supposed to be do,” Washington said. “So, that shows a maturity in the positon that he’s playing. I think Shaka (Smart) is going to get a great leader.”
That’s exactly what Texas needs.
Sure, a talented player with true point guard skills is what it needs to. But maybe more so, it needs the idea of consistently - no matter the result or situation - trying to make the team better by making the best, easiest basketball plays to infect the rest of the roster; the idea of doing the right play with the intention of making others better.
Again, Coleman didn’t end his Oak Hill career like he wanted to. He finished with seven points (3-of-6 shooting), five rebounds, five assists, and one turnover. However, he ended it being true to himself and the game, and that is something Texas fans should be very excited about.