Nevada point guard Marqueze Coleman isn’t just playing in the shadow of Deonte Burton, but also Armon Johnson and Ramon Sessions.
The Wolf Pack has a strong pedigree at the sport’s most important position. With Coleman’s three predecessors all spending time in the National Basketball Association, Nevada has grown accustomed to a decade’s worth of elite play from the point guard.
No pressure, right?
“I wouldn’t say I feel pressure,” Coleman said. “It’s obvious, you can’t replace a guy like Deonte. I’m going to play my game, do the things I do well and help this team win ball games.”
Nevada’s success pins on Coleman perhaps more than any other player among the 13-man roster.
The 6-foot-4 and 190-pound field general is the lone Wolf Pack player this year with two seasons of experience with Nevada, making him a sure-fire leader of the squad akin to Burton. However, their leadership styles differ, according to Wolf Pack head coach David Carter.
“He’s more vocal than Deonte,” Carter said. “Both are very competitive … but he’s a point guard that will get in your face if you’re not doing what you’re suppose to do and that’s a great sign from the point guard.”
Nevada will lean on Coleman, not only to lead in the locker room, but to contribute on the court. Coleman has been a point guard for two years (he played shooting guard in high school) and has been groomed for the role for the past two seasons.
Can he run a team? Can he score consistently? Can he make his teammates better? Those are the questions that follow Coleman into the season.
“He has a lot of confidence and all the skill sets are there,” Carter said. “Now this year he has the chance to show people not only at Nevada, but around the country, how good of a player he is.”
Carter planned on playing Burton and Coleman at the same time in 2013-14, but an eye injury for Coleman early in the season derailed that blueprint. Eye surgery forced Coleman to miss five games last season and nagged him throughout the season en route to averaging six points a game in 17 minutes.
Coleman shot a hair under 40 percent for the campaign — including 25 percent from beyond the arc. Shooting has long been Coleman’s weakness and an area of emphasis for him during the offseason.
“Coming back from surgery, I just wasn’t the same,” Coleman said. “I just want to prove myself as a basketball player, especially to the fans because they haven’t really seen my game.”
Teammate D.J. Fenner roomed with Coleman during the summer. The sophomore described Coleman’s personality as “real sly,” but there was nothing sly about Coleman’s work ethic over the summer.
Whenever Fenner went to the gym to train, Coleman was already there grinding.
“Whether it was Saturday morning, or late at night during the week, he was always running drills,” Fenner said. “It’s easy to come in here and just shoot around, but when you really drip sweat, you’re getting more out of your workout.”
Moreover, Coleman ended his summer early to prepare for the season. The team wasn’t required to return for camp until slightly before school started in August. Instead, Coleman came back three weeks ahead of time.
“I was like, ‘Damn, he came back three weeks earlier?’ That’s crazy,” said center AJ West, who calls Coleman one of his two closest friends on the team. “He has a high motor and really wants to get better.”
After two years of waiting in the wings, Coleman will be front and center this season — it’s his moment to seize.
Eric Uribe can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.