Kadeem Coleby started 20 games as a junior at Louisiana-Lafayette. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds and he was on the floor a lot. It was a good life in the Sun Belt Conference, but Coleby wanted more.
So he sacrificed. He decided to come to Wichita State, where he would have to sit out a season because of the NCAA’s transfer rules. He left something he knew for something he didn’t. And this time, he hit the jackpot.
Coleby watched from the sidelines last season as the Shockers made it all the way to the Final Four in Atlanta. And he’s been a part of this season’s 30-0 journey as part of WSU’s three-headed tree, the Avengers-like big man group he belongs to with Chadrack Lufile and Darius Carter. It’s all for one and one for all as Coleby, who grew up in the Bahamas, is the shot-blocking specialist.
Coleby loves to swat and his 35 blocks, which have come with only 12.7 minutes of playing time per game, have helped the Shocker senior leave a mark.
“He’s a man, he takes care of business,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said of the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Coleby. “He’s a wonderful student, already a graduate. He’s older, not just in age but in the way he handles himself. He’s solid. He’s always going to be where he’s supposed to be.”
Coleby is 24 years old. His basketball travels have taken him to many places, including two junior colleges and a prep school in Houston, Christian Life Academy.
He was a track and field athlete and volleyball player as a kid in Nassau, Bahamas.
“When I shot up about six inches I started playing basketball,” Coleby said. “Louisiana-Lafayette was my first Division I experience and it was OK. I started most of the games and put up some good numbers. But it’s not as good as winning 30 games. Not at all.”
Coleby will be one of the four seniors honored Saturday as Wichita State closes out the regular season with a 1 p.m. game at Koch Arena against Missouri State. He averages 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, numbers that pale in comparison to those he accumulated at Lafayette.
But in Wichita, Coleby is a rock star. He, like his teammates, can’t go anywhere without being recognized.
“You go for some breakfast and people recognize you,” Coleby said. “You go through a drive-thru and people are driving up and asking you, ‘Hey, how are you doing.’ I’m always wondering how they saw me.”
At 6-9, Coleby is hard to miss.
Darrell Sears, a mentor and coach to Coleby during his time in the Bahamas, said Coleby was always a tremendous athlete.
“Phenomenal,” Sears said. “But his skill set was so far behind when I had him at a camp when he was in high school. He had classic high-major talent but very low-major skills.”
So Coleby went to work, spending hours improving his footwork and touch.
“He had always relied so heavily on his athletic ability and didn’t spend as much time as he needed to working on his skill development,” Sears said. “I was so happy when he moved into Gregg Marshall’s system at Wichita State. I knew that would bring Kadeem so much more structure. If he had been able to go there from the start . . . I just can’t imagine.”
Coleby, though, has no regrets. He likes his role on this Wichita State team and understands that Carter and Lufile have earned their minutes. He doesn’t mind being a part of a trio that produces 16.5 points and 12 rebounds in just less than 48 combined minutes of playing time per game. They are also shooting a collective 52.3 percent from the field.
“I’m very happy here,” Coleby said. “Especially with this group of guys. I’m going to do anything for them. It’s just a group of fun-loving guys.”
Coleby hopes someday to return to the Bahamas and to live near the beach, away from the urban areas. A quiet, peaceful life that fits his personality.
“He’s mild-mannered,” Sears said. “But like any mild-mannered person, like a Clark Kent, they can become Superman. Be careful who’s around at that time, especially on the basketball court. Because the shark can come out real fast.”
Coleby looked like he might be headed for a career in rap music as a kid. He and a friend made some recordings and videos. He’s given that up and was reluctant to even talk about it, concerned about his Wichita State teammates knowing too much about his past.
“We would write our stuff,” he said. “My friend would write a verse and I would write a verse and we had a friend who would make the beats for us. We were like local celebrities in Nassau.”
It’s the same now in Wichita, where 30-0 is one heck of a rap.