The coaching basketball career of Kaiya Coleman got off to a rocky start.
But it ended with a flourish for Coleman, who grew up in west Laurel and graduated from St. Vincent Pallotti High School.
Coleman played on varsity for three years with the Panthers, but she got very little attention from college coaches. She ended up at Shaw University, in North Carolina, but later transferred to the University of the District of Columbia and then Division I Coppin State in Baltimore.
This season, she was a senior for the Eagles and had a memorable moment in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament last week in Norfolk.
She made a shot with less than a second to play as Coppin State defeated rival Morgan State in the opening day of the MEAC event in Norfolk on March 11.
“We got the ball out of bounds and our point guard had the ball,” Coleman said later that evening. “They came to trap her and they passed the ball to me. I heard the coaches say go to the basket and that is what I did.”
“It was a great moment,” added Coleman. “We lost to them twice in the regular-season. We do have a lot of friends on that team. It felt good to beat them when it really counts.”
Coppin State saw its season come to an end with a 55-49 loss to Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC tourney on March 14 as Coleman had just one point with five rebounds.
She can now turn her attention to the future.
Coleman is studying health sciences and is slated to graduate this spring.
“The main goal is to coach. I do want to be a coach,” said Coleman, who wants to pursue a master’s in sports management at some point. “I do want to try and have the opportunity to play overseas and continue my career overseas. My ultimate goal is become a women’s coach.”
Her teammate from last season is playing overseas and two of her friends from Morgan State have played overseas.
Former Maryland and NBA standout Juan Dixon, of Baltimore, was the women’s coach at UDC when Coleman was there. He is now the head coach at Coppin State for the men’s program.
Did that play a role in Coleman heading to Coppin?
“I wouldn’t say him being at Coppin … he played a role in me being at UDC,” she said. “I didn’t want to go through another coaching change” at UDC after Dixon left.
Coleman wanted to be part of attending an historically black college and university (HBCU). “It was something I wanted to experience. Being at an HBCU was important,” she said.
More Laure college connections
Laurel had other ties to the MEAC tournament, which held both women and men events concurrently.
The associate head coach for the Howard men’s basketball team is Keith Coutreyer, the former head coach at Laurel High and a long-time resident of Laurel. Another assistant coach for the Bison is Sean Whalen, who played at Pallotti.
Howard (17-16) opens play tonight in the College Basketball Invitational at Coastal Carolina.
The former Bishop McNamara led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per contest.
Other Laurel connections to Division I conference tournaments included George Mason’s A.J. Wilson, who grew up in Laurel and still has family there. Mason was the No. 5 seed in the Atlantic 10 Conference and opened play March 14 in Brooklyn with a win over George Washington.
Wilson got to play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time in the conference tournament.
He came off the bench in a 61-57 win over rival George Washington on March 14 and then played as a reserve the next day in a 68-57 loss to No. 3 seed St. Bonaventure.
“It is definitely an eye opener to play here,” Wilson said after the win over GW. “It feels like they had nothing to lose. We stayed together and pulled out the win.”
GW was without leading scorer DJ Williams, who injured his head in the previous game in a win over UMass. “I personally didn’t know until I got on the floor and saw he wasn’t playing. As a team that didn’t change how we were playing,” Wilson said.
Mason coach Dave Paulsen gave high praise to his team. “This has been 25 years as a coach … the best group in practice that I’ve had,” he said.
Former Laurel resident Naji Marshall, of Xavier, had a rough night on March 15 in New York in a 71-67 loss in overtime to Villanova. He played 40 minutes but was 1-for-12 from the field and had just two points as a starter.