An Indiana Junior All-Star two years ago, CJ Coleman was on top of the basketball world.
The Mt. Vernon standout guard led his team to a 24-2, regional-championship season.
Around the same time, he landed a Division I scholarship to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
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Coleman still is waiting to see his first action for the Southern Conference Spartans but not because of a lack of talent. It’s the broken ankle Coleman suffered 13 months ago midway through his senior campaign, causing him to miss the second half of the season, that continues to be an issue.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Coleman to find out how he’s dealing with what has been a grueling rehabilitation.
How’s the rehab been coming along?
“I’m definitely not where I wanted to be with the ankle. I had a couple of infections that wouldn’t go away. But, this last surgery seemed to be the one to take care of it. I’m starting to walk again, walk better. My rehab’s going pretty well. Hopefully, I can give it another shot.”
You injured your right ankle Feb. 8, 2014, against Noblesville. What was the specific diagnosis?
“It was a medial malleolus fracture. The doctor pretty much told me I broke my ankle. So, I had to have plates and screws put in to get it back right.”
Are the plates and screws still in your leg?
“No, they’ve all been taken out.”
So, how many total surgeries have you had?
“I’ve had four.”
Mentally, how tough has it been to get through all of this?
“It’s been real hard. Especially being away from home, without family being there. Having bad news after good news. Every surgery, I feel good, I get myself picked back up, and then there’s another setback. But, I know if I make it through this, I can make it through anything. So, I’m staying confident.”
Are you still committed to playing basketball?
“Yes. 100 percent.”
In your darkest moments, did you allow yourself to think that you might be done?
“Oh, yeah. It’s popped in my head a couple times. Like, ‘Why me?’ I keep working hard and something else happens. But, I just can’t give up.”
You’ve redshirted for this season. If everything goes well with the rehab from here, how soon can you return to game action?
“I’m hoping to be ready by the beginning of (next) season. I’ve got to do some more rehab and see what my body can take and how it responds. I know I’m not going to be able to play like the way I used to play. But, I’m confident by the beginning of the season I’ll be ready to go.”
Is there a moment you have in your mind, some point in the future, that you’re looking forward to?
“Getting back on the court, hearing my name called and knowing that I’m a Division I basketball player. I can’t wait. All the adversity, it will be worth it. Just to say, ‘I did it.’”
Looking back on your junior season at Mt. Vernon, you guys put together a terrific year, beating Danville and Frankfort to win the Greencastle Regional, then advancing to the Richmond Semistate, where you lost to eventual 3A state champ Greensburg. Anything stand out from that year?
“Just getting all the way to semistate, getting that far. And being a part of the team. I miss the guys. I miss Coach (Steve) Lynch. I’ve talked to a few of them a couple times. I’ve talked to (former teammate Anthony) Burnett a few times. We stay connected every now and then.”
What lessons did you take from high school?
“Always play hard and give it your all. If you do that, with the talent I have, then I can do just about anything. Play hard at all times, and never let up on your competition.”
Are you happy at UNC-Greensboro?
“Definitely. I love it. I don’t think I could have made a better decision. It’s a family atmosphere. Everyone’s real supportive of each other.”
On the court, the team went 11-22 this season. Were there any specific issues?
“It’s definitely been a challenge. With me supposed to be a part, and not being able to play. And there were a couple other people who also got hurt. We had a lot of adversity. Because of injuries, we got down to six scholarship players, which was the lowest in the country. So, it was a tough season. We played better at the end of the year and ended up getting into the second round of the (Southern Conference) tournament. It was a tough season, but I’m hoping next year we can get better, get it right.”
What advice would you give to other athletes who are dealing with injuries?
“Never give up. Keep fighting. You can do anything you put your mind to, so keep fighting.”
University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Grade: Freshman. Redshirted and missed this season due to an ankle injury.
About CJ: Named Indiana Junior All-Star after averaging 19.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists at Mt. Vernon in 2012-13. … Scored 29 points to lead Mt. Vernon over Frankfort in 2013 regional championship, Mt. Vernon’s first regional title since 1991. … Hancock County Co-Player of the Year in 2012-13, with New Palestine’s Michael Morris. … Four-time All-County selection and three-time All-Hoosier Heritage Conference honoree for coach Steve Lynch and coach Travis Daugherty. … Finished prep career with 1,264 points. … Played AAU basketball for Spiece Indy Ice and coach LaSalle Thompson … Full name is Clifton James Coleman … Born December 1, 1995 … Son of Vic and Shelly Coleman … Has three siblings: Olivia, Jordan and Alexis … Undecided major.