Advertisement

Dwight Coleby proves he's prepared for anything in KU win

Advertisement

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) celebrates during a Jayhawk run in the second half against Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) celebrates during a Jayhawk run in the second half against Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — Going into any given game, Kansas backup big man Dwight Coleby never knows how much — or how little — head coach Bill Self will decide to use him.

Twelve times so far during his junior season, the 6-foot-9 reserve from Nassau, Bahamas, never ventured to the scorer’s table to check in for the Jayhawks. So one can imagine his surprise and delight when Coleby, after watching the entire first half of KU’s second-round matchup with Michigan State from the bench Sunday at BOK Center, heard his name called in the midst of a tight second half, in the NCAA Tournament.

What began as an opportunity to give starting center Landen Lucas a breather evolved into a much larger responsibility when Lucas picked up his third foul midway through the second half. Before long, Coleby, who entered the game averaging 5.1 minutes and 1.7 points on the season, began finishing defensive stops with rebounds and extending possessions with offensive boards.

Few would have predicted as much prior to tip-off, but Coleby played as big a part in Kansas advancing to the Sweet 16 with a 90-70 victory as anyone wearing a KU uniform.

“He saved my career,” senior center Lucas said after his understudy contributed three points, four rebounds and a steal in 9 second-half relief minutes. “He made some big plays. I’m not trying to go home. We’re trying to win a championship and that’s what it takes, guys being ready and he was ready.”

Two days earlier, Coleby only logged seven minutes in a game that never was in doubt versus UC-Davis, in the opening round. Though he fully understands his role with the team, the backup big said he always hopes to earn more time.

“It’s the brightest stage and I want to play,” Coleby said, when asked how he stays mentally focused while never being sure what will be asked of him, “so I’m just ready the whole time.”

A studious observer, he doesn’t mind doing much of his research from his seat on the bench.

“I just watch Landen, and everything he does and how he defends,” Coleby shared. “Whatever he does, I just try to pick up on it and ask him questions.”

It’s a quality that can be difficult to master but Coleby said he felt prepared long before his coach called his name.

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Listed at 6-9 and 240 pounds, Coleby looks more the part of a prototypical Michigan State post player than KU sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr. During one second-half sequence, Bragg couldn’t finish over MSU’s Nick Ward after snagging an offensive rebound. When the teams switched ends of the floor, Ward posted up Bragg, spun off him for a layup and a foul, and cut KU’s lead to four.

Bragg only spent one minute on the court in the second half, and Self said after the victory he probably should have went to Coleby even sooner.

“One thing about Dwight, he's not that tall, but he is strong and can hold his position,” said Self, echoing words he often has used while praising Lucas. “And I thought he did a really nice job of holding his position. And also, his ball-screen defense was super, probably as good as any big guy we had today.”

Exerting yourself while college basketball fans across the country are watching sure beats Coleby’s usual contributions.

“It was great to be in and actually help the team,” Coleby said, wearing a huge smile in the locker room. “All the celebration with the bench is cool and all, but actually being on the court and doing it, it’s way much better.”

After a moment in the postseason spotlight, Coleby said he could feel the crowd’s excitement growing with his hustle plays, which also fueled his teammates in a crucial stretch of the win.

“Yeah, everybody was hyped and jumping up and down,” Coleby said of the support he saw. “It lifted us up, so that was great.”

Lucas told Coleby and the rest of his KU teammates before the game they should be prepared for anything. Clearly Coleby listened.

“It obviously takes a pretty strong mental person to be able to do that,” Lucas said of Coleby’s approach, “and he showed us today he’s prepared for that. And that’s great to see moving forward.”

Added Coleby: “We just needed energy and I brought it.”

Comments

Craig Alexander 4 days, 10 hours ago

Coleby was exactly what we needed tonight! He will be needed with Purdue's big men. Solid minutes exactly when we needed it. Way to go Coleby!

Steve Johnson 3 days, 23 hours ago

He was as good as any player on the court yesterday. He single handily changed the momentum for us right after Bragg lost it for us.

James Donnell 3 days, 22 hours ago

Considering how little he has played this season, his production in 9 minutes was unbelievable. He looked smooth, solid, and under control--like a veteran. That was really great to see. Way to go, Dwight!! We will need more of that coming up.

Lance Cheney 3 days, 16 hours ago

Is it even a question anymore as to who should be the first big guy off the bench? Bragg is pretty much awful, while Coleby plays smart and grabs rebounds. He should've been coming off the bench a lot more than he has been.

Matt Wesselink 2 days, 14 hours ago

First congrats to Coleby on earning that spot of the bench. However, it is not completely fair to blame Bragg for struggling this season. He has been a stretch 4 and is not a center this year, nor is that his strength. Unfortunately, I think playing out of position has hurt his confidence. Hopefully, Self lets Bragg back up Jackson when we want to go big.

Sign in to comment