Gerard Coleman, Gonzaga’s transfer guard from Providence College in Rhode Island, once went for 30 points against West Virginia. So when the Zags ventured east to play the Mountaineers on Tuesday night, he may have had visions of stuffing stat sheets again.
Six minutes and three turnovers later, though, he had a seat on the bench for the balance of the evening, watching the Zags clamber back for a road victory.
“He tried to make something happen every time he touched it,” said his coach, Mark Few.
He did, not always with famous results.
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That’s the beguiling nature of Coleman, who comes off the bench to give the Zags something they last had — well, maybe never. He’s a slender, rim-seeking 6-foot-4 wing player far from the mold of Gonzaga’s traditional template of players who execute sets with the focus of German carmakers.
Sometimes the outcome has been spectacular — 21 points against New Mexico State last week — sometimes not so much. It can’t be the easiest of transitions for a Boston city baller to change not only coasts, but modes of attack.
“He’s made quite a sacrifice, to walk away from all that freedom (at Providence),” Few said. “When I was watching clips on him, I was kind of like, ‘Why would this guy want to transfer? He gets to shoot as much as he wants, whenever he wants.’ ”
Coleman is vague on his reasons for wanting out of Providence, where he averaged double figures both his seasons. Some reports said he knew that coach Ed Cooley, who hadn’t signed him there, signed a couple of touted recruits, and Coleman sensed he might be squeezed out.
Just as likely, he may have gotten tired of a losing habit that saw the Friars go 15-17 and 4-14 in Big East play in each of his two years there.
“I just felt I needed to remove myself from the situation, that I could better myself in the future,” Coleman said. “I felt Gonzaga was it. So far it has been.
“I’m playing with a group of guys who want to do nothing but win and help each other get better. So far, so good.”
How did Coleman settle on the Zags over Xavier and Northeastern? When word got out that he was leaving Providence, ex-Zags assistant Ray Giacoletti called Coleman’s longtime AAU coach, Leo Papile, an old acquaintance.
At least Gonzaga didn’t have to start from square one. Coleman said he remembers staying up late at night to watch Zags games when he was at Tilton Prep School in New Hampshire.
“I always heard about Adam Morrison and those guys,” he said. “I knew they were an up-tempo team and they liked to push it in transition. Gonzaga speaks for itself, and coach Few is an offensive mastermind.”
Athleticism has sometimes been a missing link at Gonzaga, but Coleman is beyond that, more toward explosive.
“We just felt it was something different from what we had,” said Giacoletti, now head coach at Drake. “He’s a slasher, finisher and a runner in transition — I mean, an elite guy that way.”
The numbers from his sophomore year at Providence reveal a lot about Coleman. Turnovers topped assists (67 to 63), so the decision-making needs work. He wasn’t a great shooter (.423) but averaged five rebounds a game and led his team in getting to the foul line (where he shot .671).
If the Zags can get Coleman to be selective picking his spots, they’ll be on to something. Entering Saturday night’s Battle in Seattle game against South Alabama at KeyArena, Coleman is averaging 10.3 points in a mere 14 minutes a game, shooting .563 on a team that’s 9-1 and pointed toward the program’s 16th straight NCAA tournament.
Said Few: “I think he’s excited to be part of a team that’s playing for stuff.”
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org