First impressions are made for politics and sales.
At least, that's what I tell myself.
Seriously, in my other career, I had a boss take me aside and say I was surprising him with how well I was doing. That was after a YEAR of working there! Initially he thought the sky was my limit, then, after a few early rough months, he lowered his expectations considerably. (T.V. news is no joke for an "older" and unprepared newbie!) Which wasn't a surprise; I can look the part, but it usually takes time for me to get to where I should have been going all along.
And in reality, very few of us burst open the doors and paint masterpieces from Day One of anything.
Which, incidentally, is kind of a draw and the essence to collegiate athletics -- kids mentally and physically growing into their games, into themselves. People take time. You think Kaleb Joseph can't play point? Just wait, I'll bet he'll change your opinion. The Carmelo Anthonys of the world are rare.
And therein lies the plight of Dajuan Coleman: A Syracuse fixture who somehow hasn't truly introduced himself to Syracuse.
Now in year three at Syracuse with three seasons derailed by two injuries. His most recent medical problem being far worse than what was initially thought, or at least initially spoken about publicly.
"Coleman continues his rehabilitation from an OATS procedure that addresses cartialage damage in a different way than microfracture surgery. Raphael scooped out an area of healthy bone and cartilage from a non-weight bearing part of Coleman's leg and inserted it into, essentially, a divot of cartilage damage in his knee."
The phrase "scooped out" is used, people!
Syracuse.com's Donna Ditota reveals great detail on Coleman's road this past year. And thanks to Ditota, we now know Coleman may be close to returning to real-live basketball action. Or not. You know, more of the same when it comes to the guessing games we play around here. Which is fine, there are laws in place for a reason and these kids do not need their medical histories passed back and forth on Twitter. Still, it's clear, Coleman has gone through one hell of a process that is, one way or another, about to conclude.
But until a conclusion is met next month or this offseason, we're left with the usual lingering questions.
Like, what would have happened if Coleman had gone down that other path?
A homegrown recruit for Jim Boeheim, sure, but a lot of fans figured Coleman would wind up wearing blue in the Blue Grass state instead of wearing the orange of the Orange. I mean, it can't be easy to turn down John Calipari. Would Coleman have suffered the same fate to his knee at Kentucky? Probably. I think. Maybe. Right? We'll never know if this would have happened there; we'll never know if Coleman would have developed differently there.
Would Coleman have played right away for Kentucky? Would he have showcased skills he wasn't allowed to or able to show at Syracuse? It's no secret players don't last long at UK. And they don't stick around for a reason. You may scoff at any of that, but no one really knows what would have happened.
Or, going with Coleman's picking Syracuse as his destination, how about this one: What would have become of Coleman had he not lost so much time to injury?
As a frosh, Coleman clearly needed a drop in weight, but, man, did he look the part of a Big. Listed at six-foot-nine, Coleman was just a helmet short of a complete football uniform. He wasn't comfortable on the court, never playing in more than twenty-five minutes in a game those first two seasons, but he had the Look. And besides, bigs are no politicians or salesmen: not born polished products -- you may not remember Fab Melo fondly, but what a difference a year made in his game.
It just makes sense that Coleman would have become an asset for Boeheim. Imagine a healthy and experienced Dajuan Coleman paring up with Rakeem Christmas in the post this season? That's one hell of a back line for the zone. And what about having a more offensively-mature Coleman on the other end of the court as an option? Syracuse fans wouldn't be nearly as concerned with the NIT as they are now.
Big What Ifs for the big man.
But this is the reality of our reality: Coleman may never be the player we all hoped he could be, the player he knew he could be.
Nearly three years later, Coleman's growth hasn't happened in front of 35,000 fans or been captured by ESPN cameras the way we thought it would. Instead, it's happened off to the side during practice, or during months of grueling rehab. It's come in eating right and losing weight. It's come while being another student-athlete, one with the usual "studies" included but without the glory of athletics. He's not putting up double-doubles against ACC competition, but he's likely battling in the same way, just you can't see it.
Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing -- Coleman should be more prepared for life after basketball than most one-time prized recruits.
Yet, that doesn't make this story any less sad, any less incomplete. Anyone being denied a chance to be what they can be is a shame. He hasn't been able to make an impact the way we all figured, not because he didn't live up to the hype (like plenty of other former SU players), but because of what amounts to bad luck. A lot of bad luck, genetic or otherwise.
Dajuan Coleman has essentially said, "Hello, my name is Dajuan," to us all. But after a few years, we are all still waiting on a more lasting influence to be made, those important second and third impressions. I just hope he gets to make them.