Indiana has long been crowned as the epicenter of basketball, it’s established roots for handfuls of Hall of Famers and NBA All-Stars. Five-star recruits appear each year, while fans by the thousands fill local high school gyms and college arenas across the state.
With dozens of tournaments and travel teams to choose from, Indiana is a golden opportunity for players to develop their skills, but it’s well known for its physical brand of basketball. In order to stand out amongst your peers, hustle and determination is mandatory until the final buzzer sounds.
Growing up in Jeffersonville, Ind., true freshman Nevada forward Tré Coleman has fully embraced that gritty style of play.
“Indiana is different,” he said. “You try not to get pushed around. They try to get in your head and try to get you to react. It prepared me for that mentality and brand I like to play while staying calm and collected.”
Before his arrival at Nevada, Coleman’s stardom flashed at Jeffersonville High School. He lettered four times in basketball while leading the team in scoring (15.4 ppg) and blocks (2.3 bpg) his senior year.
The Red Devils played against some of the best high school teams in the country, and Coleman’s presence was felt on a nightly basis. Jefersonville assistant basketball coach Clarke Miles noticed Coleman stood out amongst the competition from his junior season onward.
“He had a whole lot of tenacity and fight for the game itself,” Clarke said. “He would routinely step in and say ‘Coach, I got him.’ on the opposing team’s best player. He put in a whole lot of time to be as good as he can be.”
Coleman established himself as a premier player in a state filled with talent. He was one of just 13 players named to the Indiana All-Star team as a senior. He also played two seasons under head coach Mike Fox with Indiana Elite, an AAU Basketball Association dedicated to developing the best basketball players in the country.
That level of competition has paved a bright future at Nevada for Coleman, and he’s only begun to tap into his potential.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “So many coaches taught me a lot of things and how to watch film and apply it on the court. Playing that competition helped, I got to see how good everyone is around the world. It made me better.”
Coleman translates that “Indiana style” of basketball with the Wolf Pack. At 6-foot-7 and 185 pounds, he guards multiple positions with his defensive versatility and physicality on the perimeter. His lanky arms and athleticism give opposing players fits offensively.
Coleman has carved out a starting role with Nevada this season. The forward joins Lindsey Drew and Cameron Oliver to start more than half of Nevada’s games in their debut season over the last ten years.
“When I got into that starting role I knew I had to embrace it,” he said. “I was ready to get minutes and knew I had to be ready for it.”
Defense and hustle are two mindsets Coleman displays as soon as he steps on the floor. He shot 65 percent from the floor his senior year at Jeffersonville, but took the time to build his defensive abilities. Coleman’s efforts to improve defensively is rare for high school players looking to fill the stat sheet.
“Kids these days coming up are all about scoring points,” Miles said. “The thing that impressed me with Tré was he bought into being a great defensive player… Any team we’d play, we put him on their best player without hesitation. He takes pride in that.”
While his defensive abilities continue to shine with Nevada, Coleman is rounding out his offensive game as a whole. He transitioned to the wing after residing in the paint and around the basket his entire high school career.
Through 17 games this season, Coleman is averaging 5.0 points per game on 30 percent shooting from 3-point range. He poured in a career-high 13 points in his collegiate debut against North Dakota State on Nov. 25.
Coleman may lack eye-popping stats, but his intensity and high motor sparks Nevada on both ends of the floor. He continues to grow into his offensive profile, making him a potent two-way force.
“I’m getting more comfortable every single day,” he said. “Growing into that part of my game has been a process and something I work on. I knew I had to step my game out. I used to tower over some guys in high school, but that’s no longer the case. I wanted to challenge myself in that way.”
Indiana roots are a deep tradition within the Wolf Pack’s coaching staff. Nevada head coach Steve Alford and associate head coach Craig Neal were named Indiana All-Stars in 1983. Coleman followed suit with his selection 37 years later.
As a three-star recruit out of Jefersonville, the Indiana connections bonded Coleman to his coaches but more thought went into his decision to choose Nevada over several prominent schools including Ball State and Nebraska.
“The Indiana ties were a bonus, but I just wanted an opportunity,” he said. “I came for basketball, and I loved the coaching staff… I knew it would be a great place to start my career here.”
Alford has given Coleman an opportunity in the starting lineup, and the freshman forward is making the most of it. The physicality he endured in high school has made a seamless transition to the college game.
His abilities and tenacity have impressed Alford early on.
“Tré gives us so much versatility and brings a lot of energy,” Alford said. “I think he can become a real impact player and defender for us.”
Coleman has more room to grow, but he’s one the right path towards a successful college career. If his high school experience tells anything, Coleman isn’t afraid of facing tough competition.
Coleman has his sights set on maximizing his talent, and he has what it takes to blossom into a star with the Wolf Pack.
“I want to get to the highest level I can get to,” he said. “I feel like with this coaching staff and teammates, they will help me get there.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @IsaiahBurrows_.