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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Men's Basketball

Capturing hoop dreams brings former star Coleman home

Aubrey Coleman was the leading scorer for the Cougars for two seasons after he transferred in 2008. | File photo/ The Daily Cougar

Aubrey Coleman was the leading scorer for the Cougars for two seasons after he transferred in 2008. | File photo/ The Daily Cougar

Aubrey Coleman found himself back at the University where he starred as a player, except now he was coaching others to reach their basketball goals.

Coleman returned to the UH Athletics/Alumni building to train a handpicked group of talented athletes in basketball fundamentals on Monday.

In 2010, he finished the season as the nation’s leading scorer and helped the Cougars land in the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly two decades.

Coleman still fondly recalls his time at UH.

“It’s nice coming home. People show a lot of love here and recognize me. Not just at the University.  If I’m out somewhere, they recognize me because we had a good run,” Coleman said.

Coleman had a long way to travel to get home this offseason. After playing for the New Orleans Hornets in the 2010 NBA Summer League, Coleman competed overseas in Italy and France. The European style of play and life on the road required some adjustments, but Coleman said he has capitalized on his opportunities to learn and improve.

“To me, it’s a higher level over there (than college). As far as guys, they may look like they can’t play, but they can shoot the ball and know the game.”

Coleman’s work ethic has attracted the attention of a small and dedicated group of athletes, hoping to benefit from his experience.

“They all contacted me saying ‘we know what you did, we want help from you,’” Coleman said. “Basically, we’re just doing stuff that I do for myself in the summer. I have been getting a lot of feedback and people wanting me to train them.”

One of Coleman’s students is former UNLV star forward Darris Santee. Santee is now a forward with Sweden’s Eco Orebro and a longtime friend who said that the former Cougar has long exhibited a willingness and ability to instruct.

“I’ve been knowing Aubrey for a long time, since about ninth grade. I’ve seen him go from being nothing to transforming his game and being an elite player,” Santee said.

“(Aubrey) wanted to give back and show players how he did it and show them the way.”

Everyone at the Athletics/Alumni Center on Monday came to follow Coleman’s lead and work hard at improving their game.

The dozen-strong group featured former college standouts, current overseas pros and a few aspiring college athletes. Coleman strode briskly around the shooting and conditioning drills, taking video on his cell phone, which he will later break down and use to hone in on each individual’s weaknesses.

The energy in the gym was high and Coleman kept it that way, with the drills, shouting “tempo” and calling out advice and encouragement. Coleman was zeroed in, already intimately aware of the ins and outs of every athlete’s game.

“It’s just the experience I’ve been through, even off-the-court stuff, making sure you’re on time for workouts, making sure you’re professional, guys you’re working with, trying to learn their names,” Coleman said.

“It’s the small stuff you don’t think is important,” Coleman said. “That can be the difference between you making the team or not.”

As the gym cleared out, Coleman called out last words of encouragement to his departing students, then picked up a few cones and stacked them before abruptly grabbing a ball sitting just outside the three-point arc, facing up to the basket, pump-faking, driving left hard, and pulling up to sink a 20-footer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

“Teaching helps my ability to learn,” Coleman said. “I’m getting a couple of looks, like the Boston Celtics are still interested in me, and the Milwaukee Bucks may bring me to summer league. But if not, I’m going to continue to train and tighten my jumper up.”

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