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Henry Coleman III proving a perfect fit for Texas A&M men's basketball team
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Henry Coleman III proving a perfect fit for Texas A&M men's basketball team

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When Henry Coleman III announced his intent to enter the NCAA transfer portal, Trinity Episcopal High School basketball coach Rick Hamlin heard one constant refrain from those who knew the basketball standout: “Why would you leave Duke?”

A few days later, Coleman announced he would head to Texas A&M to continue his basketball career. A lot about that decision made sense to Hamlin and those who know Coleman well.

“I thought he would love it, and from everything I’ve heard from him, when he and I have talked several times since he’s been there, it sounds like he just absolutely loves it there,” Hamlin said. “I’m really happy that he’s found a coach that believes in him, a school that is a good fit, and he’s getting to play a lot and contribute to what’s been a good start to the season.”

The Duke transfer has made an instant impact at A&M, tallying two 20-plus point games in his first 13 appearances with the Aggies. One of two consistent post presences on A&M’s roster, Coleman scored a game-high 23 points in the Aggies’ 81-79 win at Georgia to open Southeastern Conference play Tuesday. He is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.7 points per game, while sitting second in rebounding with a 5.2 average.

In one season at Duke, Coleman averaged 1.1 points and five minutes per game.

The extended playing time and more efficient production weren’t the first reasons why Coleman chose A&M.

“I’m a pretty country guy, I would say,” Coleman said. “I hunt and I fish all the time. I have a bunch of Tecovas [boots]. I love those. It’s just who I am. I think that’s kind of fit me, and Texas A&M has fit me really well. I just thankful to be down here.”

The Richmond, Virginia, native fished every day during the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic. His love for fishing and the outdoors came from his father and bother, he said. Through high school he was a part of nature clubs and environmental classes.

“Being outside is definitely one of my hobbies and something I love to do,” Coleman said.

Sports also played a big role in the Coleman family. Coleman’s father, Frank, played football at Virginia Tech from 1991-95. Going to see Frank Beamer’s Hokies play at Lane Stadium was a key part of his childhood, the younger Coleman said.

“‘Enter Sandman’ is one of my favorite traditions,” Coleman said. “A&M football is fun, but Virginia Tech football is deep in my heart.”

If the Aggie basketball team isn’t practicing on a Saturday, Coleman said you can find him rooted on the couch watching every football game possible. It is a love passed down from his father, as Henry Coleman never actually played organized football in his life. He was, however, a two-sport athlete in high school, setting the school’s scoring record in basketball and roaming the outfield for the Trinity baseball team.

His resume also includes serving as the senior class president in high school, where Hamlin says he was an exemplary student and friend to everyone that knew him.

“If you had polled the students and asked, ‘Who are your three best friends?’ I bet you 50 people would have included Henry among their three best friends,” Hamlin said.

Coleman’s Virginia Tech connections combined with being the nation’s No. 52 high school recruit in the class of 2020 attracted then-Hokie men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams to the in-state player early in Coleman’s high school career. Hamlin said Williams visited his high school approximately 17 times through Coleman’s sophomore and junior seasons.

Williams, a self-proclaimed fan of watching football over basketball, connected with the family early over their love of the gridiron.

“I never saw [Frank] Coleman play football, but I have spent more time talking to him about football than I have basketball,” said Williams, who is now A&M’s head coach. “I think Henry should have played football,” adds with a laugh.

At 6-foot-8 and 243 pounds, the forward on the basketball court has to settle for taking in Aggie football from the stands, something he and freshman Wade Taylor IV have enjoyed thoroughly.

“As far as culture, [Taylor] and Henry have been incredible,” Williams said. “They know every yell, literally. The hand signs, the words — they know all of it. They have been great. Those two guys are close, and I think their enthusiasm specific to those things Texas A&M has even encouraged some of our other introverts on our team to be more participatory in what we do.”

Williams hopes to continue to get a workman’s effort from Coleman starting at noon Saturday with the Aggies’ SEC home opener against Arkansas at Reed Arena.

Coleman has had several inconsistent performances leading up to Tuesday’s standout game, averaging five points and three rebounds in the final three games of nonconference play. But the first-year Aggie expects to work his way into more consistency.

“I think in football and basketball and baseball and every other sport there is kind of a working culture,” Coleman said. “I think there’s a lot of people who are dedicated to their sport and dedicated to their craft and really kind of always play with a chip on their shoulder. I credit A&M for that, and that’s mainly one of the reasons I came.”

NOTES — The Aggies enter Saturday’s game ranked 56th in the NCAA’s NET rankings ahead of No. 93 Arkansas, which lost to Mississippi State and Vanderbilt to open SEC play. KenPom.com has A&M ranked 64th nationally. ... At 12-2 overall, the Aggies are off to their best start since the 2015-16 season. ... JD Notae paces the Razorbacks, averaging 17.8 points per game, followed by Chris Lykes’ 12.1. ... The Aggies enter the contest ranked first in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage (38.4%), which Williams said has improved because of better shot selection. “Are we the best shooters in the league? No. But I think we’re getting closer to making sure that the shots that we shoot are the right shot at the right time for us,” Williams said. ... Despite A&M staff working remotely this week, fans are encouraged to come to Reed Arena to take in the game with Holiday Hoops ticket pricing still in effect. More information can be found at www.12thMan.com/MBBTickets.

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