SYRACUSE Brandon Triche has been through what Syracuse freshman forward DaJuan Coleman is experiencing this season.
A local star who chose to stay home for college, Triche has put together a solid career and been a stand-up guy through his first three years in an Orange uniform.
Coleman, who like Triche, starred at nearby Jamesville-DeWitt High School, is this years local phenom. The 6-foot-9, 290-pound power forward/center is expected to give coach Jim Boeheim a ruggedness underneath combined with a soft offensive touch the Orange havent had in a big man in a long time.
Thursday night, as SU kicked off the season with a 99-63 exhibition win over Division II Pace before 7,145 at the Carrier Dome, Coleman gave Orange fans a glimpse of what they can expect this year and through the coming seasons.
He scored 11 points in 20 minutes, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots in a solid debut. Coleman said afterward his expectations, however, are much higher than anybody can imagine.
I know what I can do and what I have to do to help this team, he said. If that means scoring, I can do that. If that means rebounding and playing defense, Im ready for that. Whatever coach wants, Im prepared.
Triche, who has known Coleman since he came to Jamesville-DeWitt out of the Syracuse city schools as a precocious eighth-grader, said his advice to Coleman has been simple.
Patience. Patience. Patience, Triche said. Hes got to make sure his highs arent too high, and his lows arent too low. DaJuan is a kid with great energy and passion, and sometimes he has to temper that. But he works hard and is willing to learn. Ive told him just to keep a happy medium and hell be OK.
Boeheim, who started Coleman in his first collegiate game, said he and fellow big men Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita all played well.
DaJuan has just touched the surface of what he can be, Boeheim said. First of all hes really skilled for a big guy and has a soft touch. Those are things you cant teach. He can be a physical presence if he learns to use his body better. And hes a really hard worker. Thats what you like in a freshman.
Sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who was also making his first start for SU, said Colemans ability to score on the low block will give the Orange a dimension they havent had in some time.
Hes a skilled big guy with a good touch, said Carter-Williams, who scored 16 points and had seven assists. If he can give us some points from the low post, that will take a lot of pressure off the guards and the wing guys. And from what Ive seen so far, hes a really solid defender with good timing and is so aggressive.
Coleman, who has dropped some 25 pounds after a summer of dieting and weight training, said just having his name called in the starting line-up was an adrenalin rush. I wasnt really nervous. More excited. This is a dream come true for me.
As for his learning curve, Coleman said, Ive already learned more in five months here than I did all of high school. Coach Boeheim and the other coaches have worked me hard, and I appreciate that. Now its up to me to keep on working and try to reach my potential.
The Orange displayed its abundant talent against the Setters. Six players finished in double figures, with senior James Southerland leading the way with 18 points, junior C.J. Fair netting 16, Keita 14 and Triche 11.
Eight of the nine scholarship players played at least 17 minutes, including another freshman, forward Jerami Grant.
In games like this, everybody gets a chance to play a lot and thats a good thing, Boeheim said. Overall we played well and showed a lot of intensity in the first half.
Redshirt freshman guard Trevor Cooney sat out after having his tonsils out two weeks ago. Boeheim said he should return to practice today, and will likely see time when SU plays Bloomsburg Sunday at the Dome in their final preseason tune-up.
This years exhibitions take on a little extra meaning because SU opens the regular season next Friday in the Battle on the Midway in San Diego against 20th-ranked Sand Diego State.
We dont usually start out with such a tough game, but I think thats good for us, said Southerland, who made seven of his eight shots.