Marvin Coleman
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

 

UNLV’s Marvin Coleman is the True Hometown Hero

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UNLV head coach TJ Otzelberger has made recruiting the Las Vegas valley one of his top priorities ever since he took the job before the 2019-20 season. He’s landed extremely talented local players like Nick Blake, Donavan Yap, and Jhaylon Martinez for the 2020 class.

 

He’s also gone out and grabbed one of the best combo guards in the 702 area code for the 2021 class. Keshon Gilbert of Durango High School (Gilbert will finish out his high school career in St Louis at Vashon High School) pledged to join Otzelberger back in September. The Rebels aren’t done yet either. They’re considered the odds on favorite to land 2021 point guard Zaon Collins, a top 40 player in the nation, and a Gorman standout. 

 

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Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

As loaded with local stars as UNLV will be for the foreseeable future, it’s an unheralded player from Las Vegas who might be the most invaluable among them. Marvin Coleman is a Foothill High School graduate and was one of the best players in the city by the time he was a senior during the 2017-18 campaign. In his final season for the Falcons, Coleman averaged 16.9 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. 

Despite putting up impressive numbers against the top-flight competition in the valley, Coleman was sparsely recruited. Listed as a 2-Star prospect from most recruiting sites,  he did see some interest from schools like Fresno State and Pacific. Ultimately nothing materialized from those schools. 

 

For most young kids pursuing their collegiate basketball dreams, that would be extremely disappointing. Coleman never let that be a deterrent, however. His dream school had always been UNLV. While it wasn’t the scholarship offer he cultivated, former Rebel coach Marvin Menzies offered him the chance to walk-on. In the fall of 2018, he was able to live out his dream of wearing a scarlet and gray-clad uniform, running out on the red carpet at the Thomas and Mack Center, and watching the fireworks explode as apart of the Runnin’ Rebels roster. 

Coleman even saw the floor a little bit as a freshman. He appeared in 11 games, shot 50% from the floor, and scored 1.5 points per game. 

 

Ready for another year as a walk-on as a sophomore, things changed drastically within the UNLV program.

 

UNLV
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Marvin Menzies was fired after his third season, and Otzelberger was brought in from South Dakota State, where he went to 2 NCAA Tournaments in 3 tries as head coach of the Jackrabbits. When he arrived in Las Vegas, he was in dire need of players. In particular, he needed a point guard. Coleman was quickly upgraded to a scholarship player after impressing the new coach. 

As with any season, unexpected things arise. Elijah Mitrou-Long was brought in from Texas as a grad transfer to be instant offense for the Rebels. In a way, he was. Mitrou-Long averaged 12.6 points per game, 3.4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and shot 34% from 3-point range during his time at UNLV. On the other hand, he missed 13 games after suffering a hand injury and a knee injury, respectively. When that’s the case, most teams adopt a “next man up” approach. The guy that was tasked to fill those shoes was none other than Marvin Coleman. 

Coleman was an overlooked high school senior and an afterthought as a walk-on. All of a sudden, he was a starter for his dream school. That in and of itself is a tremendous story. If it ended right there, it would be all smiles and riding off into the sunset. But Coleman was only getting started. 

 

For the season Coleman’s numbers could be construed as modest. He scored 7 points per game and handed out 2.3 assists. One area in which he really stood out on the stat sheet was his 5 rebounds per game.

 

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Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

But those numbers don’t tell the tale. Instead, you have to look at his triple-double against New Mexico. No Runnin’ Rebel had pulled off such a feat in 20 years. You also have to look at his buzzer-beating game-winner at home against Fresno State. That doesn’t even count the floor burns from diving for loose balls, or the inseparable bond that he has with his teammates. When you add up everything, those are significant reasons UNLV went 12-6 and finished 2nd place in the Mountain West Conference. 

The Rebels will be a preseason favorite in the MWC. They’ll be slated to finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd in my estimation. David Jenkins Jr and Bryce Hamilton are arguably the best backcourt in the entire country and will be the reason on paper that UNLV receives such accolades. What will be overlooked by the prognosticators is the contribution that Marvin Coleman will have as an upperclassman and a leader. 

 

That’s okay because Coleman is used to being under the radar and undervalued. The important thing is TJ Otzelberger and his Rebel teammates all know what he brings to the table. And that’s a lead guard who can lead UNLV to its first conference championship since 2000.

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-Jeff Waddilove – Franchise Sports Media

Follow me on Twitter @JeffWaddilove

 

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