Syracuse: Jim Boeheim Needs to Put His Trust in DaJuan Coleman

By Jeff Kelly

It’s not a secret that Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tends to play some favorites, sticking with guys who have been in the program over talented, but flawed younger players to the point where it often frustrates fans of the Orange. He has his whipping boys and his players who, for whatever reason, simply don’t get the minutes that many fans think they need to see.

This year, DaJuan Coleman has seemingly moved from whipping boy as a freshman to a guy who is getting severely shortchanged on well-deserved minutes as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-9 Coleman has started every game this year, so obviously that is not the issue. The concern among at least one contingent of Syracuse fans is the fact that Coleman has been getting squeezed out of late-game situations in favor of senior Baye Keita, a good leader, solid rebounder and good defender who can’t score a basket to save his life.

Coleman, on the other hand, has shown some flashes of becoming a dominant low post scorer of late.

Against St. Francis (NY), he was 5-of-5 from the field and finished with 14 points while grabbing six rebounds. In yesterday’s win over Minnesota, he was 3-of-4 and scored nine points with four rebounds, three of which came on the offensive glass. Those aren’t exactly superstar numbers, but the biggest thing you have to consider is this: he played only 18 minutes against St. Francis, and just 16 against the Gophers.

Boeheim has offered up his reasons for Coleman failing to get more time despite his offensive efficiency, namely that he can sometimes be a defensive liability. That Minnesota employs a full court press creates a tempo at which lanky athletes like Keita and Rakeem Christmas may excel in more than the 280-pound Coleman.

But, he simply cannot argue with Coleman’s production down low. The Orange have lacked a reliable post scorer since Rick Jackson graduated a few years ago, and Coleman looks to be the best threat since Jackson’s departure.

After all, he’s shooting 66.7 percent from the field and putting up impressive numbers for a guy playing fewer than 16 minutes-per-game. Coleman is averaging seven points and 6.2 boards, good for fourth and third on the team respectively, despite playing just the seventh-most minutes this season.

Yes, he can be poor on the defensive end of the court, but that’s as much a product of the wings in the vaunted 2-3 zone getting overextended and leaving Coleman, clearly less nimble than a guy like Keita, out on an island. His rebounding and ability to get baskets on the interior are absolutely necessary if the Orange want to become a major factor on the national scene this year.

It’s time for Boeheim to recognize that his former McDonald’s All-American is slowly starting to realize some of his potential, and that it’s time to keep him on the floor.

Jeff is an ACC basketball writer on  Follow him on Twitter @jekelish and like him on Facebook.

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