Freshman Henry Coleman III addressed his, and the team’s, role in last week’s peaceful demonstration and discussion on Duke’s campus in support of racial equality, and also discussed how the freshman class is adjusting to preseason practice.
Coleman, from Richmond, Va., enters Duke as a four-star power forward that averaged 22.8 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a senior at Trinity Episcopal in Richmond.
On what inspired his remarks to Duke students during the demonstrations on campus last week:
“I thought it was an unbelievable job by Coach K and coach Nolan [Smith], what they had set up, but I was just moved to speak for the people that didn’t have a voice. My parents told me always just to use my platform. I built this platform. They would always tell me, ‘You wouldn’t build a house and not sleep in it,’ so I just have to use this platform to continue to talk.”
On what his conversations with Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Director of Operations & Player Development Nolan Smith have been like surrounding recent protests over social injustice:
“Coach K is a guy who is super open. He’s always willing to accept change and be with his players. He tells us every day that he loves us and that he’s thankful for us. I just think it’s that common bond that we share with Coach, that he’s almost like a father figure to a lot of us, that he helps us with a lot of different things on and off the court. Then with coach Smith, he’s just a guy that’s super relatable. I’m always able to talk to him and bounce ideas off of him, whether that be sports, shoes or the protests. He’s a great guy.”
On if taking an active role off the court is something he hopes to do more of while at Duke:
“It’s something that I hope to do. When I’m given the opportunity, I will use my voice and use my platform. It’s something that I look forward to doing and continue to do beyond Duke. When you go into that regular world feeling, just continue to use your voice. Whether or not I’m in the NBA or whether I’m in any other field, [I will] continue to use my voice.”
On the bond that he has already felt with the freshman class and the rest of the team:
“Starting off, I told Coach K at the beginning of the season that we’re a different group of guys. Everybody has come in hungry, ready to work and we’re just different, I feel like to a certain extent. When those guys came up behind me, like I said earlier, it was almost like a security blanket. I felt like those guys around me – they felt the message with me. Even though they weren’t speaking, they showed the whole community that they believed every single word that I was saying, and I thought that was a really big deal. I want to touch on the [women’s basketball] team did the same thing with Coach (Kara) Lawson speaking. They came up behind her too and they kind of comforted her too. I thought that was unbelievable and it showed the true brotherhood that we have as not just a men’s program, but a whole program throughout the whole Duke Athletics.”
On if it is setting in that he is a part of the Duke basketball program:
“Words can’t describe it. To walk in every day and you see Coach K, one of the best coaches ever – it’s a surreal feeling. You go through the hallway and you see greatness. You see guys like Grant Hill, J.J. Redick, Christian Laettner on the wall and you’re finally a part of that program and this brotherhood. It’s really a surreal feeling.”
On who on the team has impressed him during practices:
“It’s kind of crazy seeing all the guys and what they can do. From a guard perspective and from the wings and to the bigs, everybody is working hard. A couple people that are remarkable – every time I watch DJ [Steward] shoot the ball. It’s funny, we do some shooting competitions at the end of practice and I kind of get five real quick and then DJ gets 10 three’s out of nowhere. It’s just unbelievable. Seeing Jalen [Johnson], Jaemyn [Brakefield] and Mark [Williams] – a couple other freshmen guys – they’re just surreal athletes. Mark at seven-feet, being able to do some of the stuff that he does is kind of crazy. Jalen and Jaemyn being freakish athletes, being able to handle the ball and do other things is pretty cool. Then, for the upperclassmen guys, J Gold (Jordan Goldwire), Joey [Baker], Wendell [Moore Jr.], Matt [Hurt] – those guys continue to get better each and every day and I continue to learn from them, seeing some of the stuff that they do on and off the court.”
On if the COVID-19 pandemic and protests against social injustice have helped build chemistry within the freshman class and the team:
“I think honestly even before a lot of this was happening, we were already close. Most of the guys, we had known each other through camps, through even playing together. Then, with these things coming along, it’s definitely brought us closer and we’ve just been able to talk about a lot of the stuff that’s been going on. But then, we kind of use basketball as this safe haven. When we’re out there shooting around, joking around and just playing, everything else in the outside world kind of goes away and you’re focused on making that shot, getting that steal or just getting that win. We use basketball as that safe haven kind of to get rid of the outside world and focus on just basketball.”
On playing a Justise Winslow type of role at Duke:
“A guy that can get downhill, and you know use his frame. But I think on that 2015 team with Justise a lot of people kind of looked over how good of a leader Justise was and how always just brung energy whether or not he had 3 points or he had 30 points he always brought energy and was always ready to play. I think he had a knack or winning and that something I hope I can do for this team and something I know that I have.”
On what he’s improving and working on:
“Definitely working a lot with Coach James on my shot, being able to hit that pick and pop 3, then also attacking off the wing and in the trail position. He calls those his money spots. Guys can really get paid a lot of money for doing those things. So I’ve just been working on those things. Coach and I have talked about just being a more consistent shooter, for my game right now that’s the biggest thing I need to work on – and it’s getting a lot better and I’m getting up a lot of shots everyday.”
On his passions outside of Basketball?
“A lot of people know this but I love to be outdoors I love to go fishing I love just being out in nature one my favorite authors is Henry David Thoreau and he’s a guy that always preached on being out in nature. So thats one of my favorite things to do.”