Once a Josh Pastner camper, Georgia Tech’s Deebo Coleman shows promise

Georgia Tech guard Deebo Coleman releases a jump shot against Clemson on Feb. 5, 2022 at McCamish Pavilion. (Anthony McClellan/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Anthony McClellan

Credit: Anthony McClellan

Georgia Tech guard Deebo Coleman releases a jump shot against Clemson on Feb. 5, 2022 at McCamish Pavilion. (Anthony McClellan/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Josh Pastner thought he was running a basketball camp for kids. Little did he know he was recruiting.

When Pastner was coaching at Memphis, one of his campers was a boy named Dallan “Deebo” Coleman. Thinking back Friday, Coleman thought he was a sixth-grader.

Years later, Coleman became a four-star prospect, and Pastner had an unlikely connection with him.

“He’s the same person (now as then),” Coleman said. “He’s always got a smile on his face. Energetic guy.”

As the Yellow Jackets’ struggle through the season continues – Georgia Tech plays at Virginia on Saturday – Coleman has proved a promising freshman for Pastner.

“Recruiting is just an inexact science, and you can never know what can trigger a kid to go to a certain school,” Pastner said.

Coleman’s most significant contribution to the Jackets has been his 3-point shooting. With 36 3-pointers, Coleman was tied for 39th among all Division I freshmen as of Friday afternoon, according to sports-reference.com, and seventh among freshmen from power-conference schools.

Perhaps more notably, among all Division I freshmen who had made 30 3-pointers through Thursday’s games, Coleman’s 45.6% 3-point field-goal percentage ranked sixth in Division I and second among freshmen at power-conference schools, behind only Duke’s A.J. Griffin.

For the sake of comparison, Tech guard Michael Devoe made 42 of 107 3-point tries as a freshman (39.3%) and averaged 9.7 points per game. Coleman is averaging 7.0 points per game.

“I’m just taking it day by day, but I definitely feel like each day and each game, I’m definitely getting more confident in myself, and I feel like my teammates are getting the same confidence in me as well,” Coleman said.

Coming off the bench, Coleman had one of his top games of the season Saturday at Miami. Coleman made his first five shots – three from 3-point range – as the Jackets gained a 14-point lead on the Hurricanes that they ultimately surrendered in a 79-70 loss. Coleman finished with 15 points, one rebound, one assist and three steals, tying his career high for thefts.

At 6-foot-6, Coleman has size and some reach, but he’s not the quick-handed thief that one typically associates with steals. Coleman has become more adept at playing Tech’s 1-3-1 defense and playing with smarts.

Among his more impressive plays against Miami was when Miami guard Isaiah Wong went to the basket in transition early in the game. Coleman simply grabbed the ball and forced a held ball, giving possession back to the Jackets. He followed that steal with a 3-pointer.

“On the defensive end, it forces me to use my IQ, so I really think that me watching film and me really paying attention in practice, it helps me on the defensive end,” Coleman said.

For the season, Coleman has 24 steals, fourth on the team. In ACC games, his 1.5 steals-per-game average is ninth in the conference and second among freshmen.

“He’s gotten better,” Pastner said. “He’s a really good basketball player. He’s improved, and I’m proud of his development, and we need him to be good for us.”

Another notable play from the loss to the Hurricanes was a two-point basket. Coleman retrieved a loose ball near midcourt, drove at Wong on the left wing, crossed over to his right hand, muscled his way to the basket against Wong and tossed up a soft floater for the score.

“They’ve been leaving me open, so I’ve only been showing the 3, but I’m actually a three-level scorer,” Coleman said.

He’s increasingly showing more of the game that won him Mr. Basketball honors in Florida last year as a senior at West Nassau High in Callahan, Fla.

“He’s just got to keep getting better, just on his ball skills, his explosiveness, his quickness,” Pastner said. “But he’s a worker, he’s tough, he’s hard-nosed, he wants to be great. Deebo’s got a chance to be a big-time player for Georgia Tech.”