Coleby embracing increased workload

Playing starters minutes will be a new collegiate experience for graduate transfer Dwight Coleby. Originally recruited to be a defensive presence off the bench, Coleby will now serve as one of the premier big men on Western Kentucky’s (WKU) 2017-18 basketball roster. Five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson, who was supposed to be the team’s starter, turned down playing at WKU to train alone with the hopes of being drafted in next year’s National Basketball Association (NBA) draft.

With Mitchell’s departure, Coleby and senior Justin Johnson are currently the only two WKU big men cleared to participate in actual games. Sophomore Moustapha Diagne’s eligibility is still in question. He is eligible to practice but the National Collegiate Athletic Association hasn’t yet cleared him to play in games, and there has been no timetable given as to when he’ll be able to play.

WKU plays its first exhibition game on November 1, and then again on November 7, before opening the regular season at home on November 10 against Missouri State.

Realizing that he’ll be expected to play the most minutes he’s every played in college, Coleby, this weekend on campus, said that he’s looking forward to the challenge of being the starting center at WKU.

“We’ve done a lot of conditioning so we should be fine,” Coleby said. “Playing a lot of minutes, we just have to stay smart, not get in foul trouble and not put pressure on our team.”

Coleby, who spent most of last season recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the 2015-16 season, averaged just 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. However, now that he’s healthy, WKU coach Rick Stansbury expects Coleby’s numbers to increase across the board. He also told Coleby to expand his offensive game in order to be more effective this season.

“(Stansbury) pretty much told me that he wanted me to be a leader on this team,” Coleby said. “He wanted me to expand my game and shoot some more, because he thinks I’m a good shooter. I’ve just been working on that, truing to develop my game more for the next level.”

Johnson shouldered a heavy load for the Hilltoppers last season, as he led the squad in both scoring (14.5 points per game) and rebounding (9.4 per game). He also expressed his excitement about having Coleby as a running mate in the frontcourt. He said that as long as Coleby remains healthy he’ll be able to have a productive season.

“On the defensive end he protects the rim, and that’s something that’s going to be really big for us. His conditioning is going to be really big for us, too, because he’s going to have to play a lot of minutes. I’m really looking forward to having another big man beside me. I think he’s going to do a really good job.”

Coleby’s career highs in points and rebounds came in 2014-15, his last year at Ole Miss. He averaged 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest for a Rebels team that played in the NCAA Tournament.