Playing limited minutes this season due to recovery from a torn ACL, Bahamian collegiate basketball player Dwight Coleby has logged valuable minutes thus far in the NCAA Tournament and his teammates, along with the international media have taken notice.
Several Kansas players and head coach Bill Self lauded Coleby’s effort off the bench in the Jayhawks’ 90-70 win over the Michigan State Spartans in the round of 32 last Sunday at he Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Kansas will now face the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet 16 tonight (March 23) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Coleby’s contribution will be necessary to limit Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, one of the most productive post players in the country.
“He’s a big guy that can score in the post and step out and hit the three, trailer threes,” Coleby said to KUsports.com “You’ve just got to be aware of all the things that he can do. He’s a great passer. “We just have to adjust as the game goes on, on what we can do,”
Self told the Kansas City Star that Coleby’s perseverance made the moment satisfying for the entire team.
“He deserves that because it’s been a rough go for him,” Self said. “His attitude’s is so good. He’s such a great kid. To see him respond like that, I just know our kids are so happy for him. I thought he was as valuable as anybody we had. I thought he was great. It wasn’t just post defense. He got a couple steals; his ball-screen defense was good.”
Coleby was a key contributor in the second half and finished with three points, four rebounds and one steal while starting forward Landen Lucas was limited with foul trouble.
“He came in and made some of the biggest plays,” Lucas said. “I thank him so much for that.”
Junior guard Devonte Graham, who finished with 18 points, told a local radio station in Lawrence, Kansas prior to the game that Coleby could be an factor off the bench during the tournament run.
“We told him he was the MVP of the game,” Graham said of Coleby, “He was huge getting those rebounds and on the defensive end, walling up and getting stops and rebounding on the defensive end. He played his butt off.”
Coleby, a junior, averaged 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his first season in a Jayhawks uniform after transferring from Ole Miss and sitting out last season due to transfer rules and the aforementioned injury.
He told KUsports.com that he was eager to make the most of his opportunity.
“It’s the brightest stage and I want to play, so I’m just ready the whole time,” he said, “I just watch Landen, and everything he does and how he defends. Whatever he does, I just try to pick up on it and ask him questions. It was great to be in and actually help the team. All the celebration with the bench is cool and all, but actually being on the court and doing it, it’s way much better.”
The Jayhawks finished the season at 28-4, won their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title but were upset by the TCU Horned Frogs in the conference tournament quarter-finals.
This year marks the second NCAA Tournament appearance for Coleby in his career. As a sophomore at Ole Miss his team had one of the most thrilling comebacks of the opening rounds.
In a matchup of 11 seeds, the Rebels scored 62 points in the second half and overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat the Brigham Young University Cougars, 94-90.
Coleby came off the bench for a productive 14-minute stretch where he added three points, seven rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot.
In the second round the Rebels fell 76-57 to the Xavier Musketeers.