Coleman leaving his mark before time is up at Central

Coleman leaving his mark before time is up at Central

CHAMPAIGN — Jonte Coleman could've been a quarterback on the Champaign Central football team. Perhaps a wide receiver.

It's safe to say Central coach Jeff Finke and his boys' basketball program are glad Coleman opted to hit the hardwood instead.

The senior often cedes the spotlight to the likes of teammates Tim Finke, A'Kieon Gill and Khailieo Terry. Yet Coleman has proven a critical presence for Central (20-8) entering today's 7 p.m. Class 3A Decatur Eisenhower Sectional semifinal tilt with Springfield Lanphier (25-3).

"Late January, early February (of 2017), he really came into his own and started becoming more consistent," Jeff Finke said. "He's been a leader all summer, through our summer workouts and in the fall through the open gyms. He was leading with Tim and A'Kieon, and it's continued throughout the year."

But Central wasn't always destined to garner Coleman's 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game during the high-schooler's final academic year. They could've received hundreds of passing yards and a bevy of touchdown tosses. Coleman could've offered some catch-and-runs to propel former coach Nate Albaugh's squad on the gridiron.

After all, basketball wasn't Coleman's first love until he entered high school.

"Being around people that I hang out with, we used to go play (basketball) at a friend's house after school every day," Coleman said. "And just being around it made me get attached to it, and it made me want to try it out and get better at it."

That hasn't proven too difficult for the two-year varsity starter. The 6-foot-3 guard is especially adept at knocking down shots from long range, nailing a team-best 72 three-pointers en route to a 34.3 conversion percentage.

Coleman said he first began to notice his beyond-the-arc prowess while wrapping up his time in junior high.

"I started working on my shot because I started hitting a lot of three-pointers at the end of my eighth-grade year," Coleman said. "And that's basically coming into freshman (year). My whole high school (tenure), I've been able to shoot."

That Coleman is a focal point on a Central club that has hung around the Associated Press' 3A poll all season, despite the youngster not being a big-time hoops aficionado until recently, is a testament to his work ethic, according to Jeff Finke. What also helps Coleman is that he comes from an athletically gifted family.

Coleman's older brother competed in football and lacrosse. And younger siblings Alara and Alonzo Mosley, both Central sophomores, have ties to Maroon sports. Alara formerly played basketball before switching over to volleyball, while Alonzo is a presence on Central's cheerleading unit.

Coleman said Alonzo will divulge information about what he sees from the sidelines during Maroons basketball tilts, but a lot of that centers around the freshman Terry "because he's super athletic."

So maybe it was only natural Coleman would eventually grow into becoming a key piece in the Central hoops machine. Still, he feels he can be glossed over in certain situations because of what his teammates do around him on a nightly basis.

"Sometimes, good scouting teams know I can shoot," he said. "I'm going to perform either way, if you overlook me or not. I knock down shots. That's basically it."

Coleman's coach doesn't feel quite the same way about the impact his pupil can have on Central's foes.

"I think more teams than not, they see (what Coleman can do)," Jeff Finke said. "He makes one or two threes at a minimum every game, and sometimes he's made four or five. If you're watching much film, you can't miss that."

If Coleman were to sink a few extra triples tonight against the Lions, who have defeated the Maroons in a sectional semifinal each of the last two seasons, it would go a long way toward Central proving it deserves better than the 11th spot in the AP's latest 3A rankings. It would also propel the Maroons a step closer to their first sectional crown since 2008 while potentially boosting Coleman's stock as he vies for a position with a junior college basketball program.

Coleman's present goals include keeping Central's postseason run going as long as possible, of course. But there's more to his final high school season than wins and losses.

"Just enjoy playing with my teammates," he said. "I know it's my last year, and I just want to actually stay involved with the team, my friends. Just enjoy it."