When junior Lester Abram limped into the locker room early in the second half against Minnesota last Saturday, the Wolverines faced a dilemma.
Who was going to shoot the free throw for him?
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker turned to his bench and waved for sophomore Ron Coleman to check in. Coleman stepped to the line and stroked the free throw to extend the Wolverines’ lead to 11. He finished the night with three points.
Coleman had been called upon in the past. With Michigan’s 2004-05 season plagued by injuries and legal problems, Coleman – just a freshman – was forced to play a major role in the Wolverines’ gameplan. He responded to the opportunity and scored in double digits 12 times.
“It was really tough at first,” Coleman said. “I didn’t expect to come in and get into the mix like that, but I really had to just step up and take advantage of the opportunities that I had.”
During this past summer, Coleman represented Michigan on the Big Ten Foreign Touring team when it traveled to Spain. In five contests, he averaged 13 points per game and gained valuable experience.
“(The European players) just taught me to work on every part of my game,” Coleman said. “From the one through the five, everybody can shoot threes, go to the rim and put it on the floor. I learned that you have to keep working on your fundamentals to get your game up to a certain standard.”
And after a freshman campaign in which he started 24 games, including all but one conference contest, Coleman returned to campus this year expecting to improve.
“Now I know the sets, and I don’t have to go out there and doubt myself at all,” Coleman said during Michigan media day in October. “I know to go out there and play my hardest and be shot-ready like coach Amaker always tells me to do. I have confidence now.”
Following a season to forget, Coleman and the Wolverines eagerly waited to return to form this season.
After all, the Wolverines returned an experienced, talented and healthy team. In addition, Coleman – who had not been expected to contribute much his freshman season – could only benefit from the quality minutes he had already played.
Unfortunately for Coleman, circumstances worked against him.
With Abram healthy again on the wing, Coleman moved back to the bench. But when junior Brent Petway was declared academically ineligible for the first semester, Amaker decided to move the 6-foot-6 wing Coleman to forward to add depth to the frontcourt.
Coleman struggled with the move to the post. A gifted outside shooter – he shot more than 30 percent from behind the arc his freshman year – Coleman didn’t possess the same comfort level on the blocks.
When Petway returned to Wolverine lineup against Indiana, Coleman move back to his natural position of guard.
“I feel more comfortable (at the guard position),” Coleman said. “But I see myself as a versatile player. It’s going to take a little work getting back into the guard position, getting in shape and being able to knock my shot down when I’m out there.”
Even though the he is averaging just four points per game, Coleman has come on strong during conference play despite seeing limited playing time . Against Northwestern, Coleman scored eight points and shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.
Since Abram may still be sidelined when the Wolverines take on Michigan State on Wednesday, Amaker will look to Coleman to help fill that void.
And just like against Minnesota, Coleman will be ready.
“I just know that I have to go out and be a factor,” Coleman said. “Even if I’m coming off the bench, I just have to go out and try to play hard and play to my best.”