On paper, it should be no surprise senior transfer forward Jordan Coleman has earned the Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year award five times this season.
It’s an honor Coleman never thought she would receive a year ago though. Then, she was playing basketball not as a Bruin, but as a Commodore.
After spending four years playing basketball down the road at Vanderbilt, she seemed surprised when Belmont coach Brittney Ezell told her she would be in touch in an attempt to recruit her last year. She had one year of NCAA eligibility left and could transfer and play wherever she wanted as long as she was pursuing a graduate degree.
Since deciding to come to Belmont though, Coleman has come to represent the program’s growth during Ezell’s three-year tenure.
“Jordan is a perfect bridge from where we are to where we want to go,” Ezell said. “She played at a high level for four years, it’s not to say that the OVC is not a high level, but it’s a different kind of basketball.”
Coleman averages 10 points per game and is tied for first in the OVC in rebounds per game with 10.1. But according to coach Brittney Ezell, the intangibles are what have allowed Coleman success not just as an athlete, but as an individual.
“She had 17 rebounds in our last game, and 10 rebounds at the half and she took six shots. Kids that rebound and defend without worrying about how many points they’re scoring are the kids you want on your team. She is selfless to a fault,” she said.
Along with her defensive abilities, Ezell commended Coleman’s basketball sense.
“Jordan is very cerebral, if you talk to her, explain it, and have her practice, she’s going to get it,” Ezell said. “At the same time, having a free spirit will allow her to forget plays and she has to rely on her athleticism. She has this innate sense of where the ball is going. She just outworks people.”
Coleman and Ezell both feel that the timing of the graduate student’s transfer to Belmont was impeccable.
The two met at a local sportsmanship banquet where Ezell told Coleman they would be in touch, after which Ezell said Coleman had a look of confusion.
“It sounds cheesy, but it’s like fate,” Coleman said. “It just happened. I had intentions of going to UCF but that fell through but I had never given a lot of thought to staying in Nashville.”
With a simple like-it or leave-it approach, Ezell helped Coleman schedule a quick visit to Belmont.
“I came for a visit with two of my teammates who posed as my mom and my dad,” Coleman said. “They were very attentive. Going through the recruiting process a second time, you know to ask questions you didn’t know to ask the first time.”
Now the Orlando, Fla. native has a following of her own at Belmont, including Vanderbilt teammates and a six-year-old named Ollie.
Ollie, who views Coleman as his hero, is one of six adopted children with special needs. After an unexpected trip into the locker room, Ollie now sports a shirt just like Coleman’s, said Ezell.
Fans can often spot Coleman’s “No. 1” fan dancing with Bruiser when he’s not on his way to visit Coleman at the locker room.
“He comes in like he has his own locker in there,” Coleman said.
While Coleman’s time at Belmont may finish at the end of the season, she now has the advantage of having two sets of teammates and an opportunity to move forward.
“Jordan was brought here for a reason for a purpose, and we were put into her life for a purpose if nothing more than just giving her a rekindled spirit of ‘You are important, you are special, you’re going to do some important things with your life,’” Ezell said. “We’ll be a stepping stone for her, and I’m okay with that.”
Looking ahead, Coleman says she has several game plans. She plans to go to a women’s coaching convention during this year’s Final Four to network and try to find an agent.
“If that goes well, I’m going to try to play overseas for a year or two,” Coleman said.
When she looks at possible playing destinations overseas, Coleman just laughs.
“No country that ends in -vakia! Australia would be so clutch!”
All in all, Coleman is thankful for her time at Belmont.
“It’s so weird when you think about it, like it just kind of fell into place. But it’s a good weird.”
“Kids like this are very rare,” she said. “I could have coached Jordan for four years but I’m thankful for the one we do have. For as much as we needed her, I think Jordan needed us.”
Photo by Andrew Hunt