LAWRENCE – In the days after Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self learned that Mississippi big man Dwight Coleby was transferring, he began a reconnaissance mission.
Self had a base knowledge of Coleby, the Bahamas native who had spent two seasons at Mississippi, but he desired to know more. Self coveted a transfer big man to get a head start on his next recruiting class in 2016, but was Coleby the right fit? There was tape to watch, research to be done, and a decision to make.
In the ensuing days — which included Coleby taking an official visit to Kansas over the weekend — Self came away convinced that Coleby, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward and younger brother of former Wichita State center Kadeem Coleby, was the right fit for the Kansas frontcourt.
“He’s exactly what I think we need,” Self said Monday in a statement. “He’s a big guy that can play either bigs position. He’s active. He reminds me of a lot of a bigger Jamari or Thomas Robinson-type body.
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Self continued: “He’s got a great motor. I feel like he can play on the block. He can play facing. He can do a lot of different things. He’s raw offensively, but he’s a premiere athlete and should be a solid rebounder and defender right off the bat.”
Self, of course, has a history of gushing over newly signed players, and Monday was no different. Self believes that Coleby, who signed grant-in-aid papers on Sunday, can eventually develop into a starter in the paint. First, though, Coleby will have to sit out the 2015-16 season to comply with NCAA transfer rules. He will have two years of eligibility remaining and will be able to play in 2016-17, just as Kansas loses senior forwards Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson to graduation.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on transfers the entire spring due to the fact we lose so many big guys next year,” Self said. “It would be nice to have a big guy in your program that knew the system, and we can rely on to be a foundation.”
On Monday afternoon, Coleby sat inside Kansas City International airport and processed his weekend at KU. Growing up in Nassau, Bahamas, Coleby said, he watched the KU basketball program on television and learned bits and pieces of its history. When Coleby announced his decision to transfer and Kansas expressed interest, he knew that much pretty much that.
“I could see the success they had over the years,” Coleby said. “And I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Later Monday, Coleby boarded a plane and flew home to the Bahamas, where he’ll spend June playing for his native country in the FIBA Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships, which take place June 15-21, in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. He is expected to report to campus in July, in time for the second session of KU summer school.
The Jayhawks will spend early July representing the United States at the World University Games in South Korea, but as a native of the Bahamas, Coleby is not eligible to represent the United States in an international event.
Coleby comes to Kansas after averaging 5.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 16.5 minutes as a sophomore at Ole Miss. He shot 53 percent from the floor and close to 80 percent at the free throw line for a Rebels squad that made the NCAA Tournament. In many ways, Self says, he is still raw and still developing.
“Dwight was obviously a contributor and role player for an NCAA Tournament team,” Self said. “He didn’t play a ton last year, but Ole Miss had good players. He’s hasn’t been playing ball forever, but there is definitely a foundation there, physically. Also, (there is a) foundation from an intellect standpoint that is going to allow him to become a much better player fast.”
Coleby becomes the third transfer big man to join the Kansas program since the start of the 2013-14 season. Graduate transfer Tarik Black played one season at Kansas, while Hunter Mickelson joined the program after two seasons at Arkansas. Mickelson, who has played sparingly, is entering his senior season.
Now Coleby joins the program under similar circumstances, and on Monday, Self was particularly bullish about Coleby’s future.
“Without question, we think his best ball is well down the road,” Self said. “I see him being a Darnell Jackson. I see him being a bigger Jamari, a guy that can have a big impact on our program and hopefully mature and develop into a starter for us.”