Jalen Coleman-Lands eager to make difference on court


DePaul junior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands takes on Rockhurst defender Tyler Garrett. Richard Bodee | The DePaulia

Basketball has always been a part of junior guard Jalen Coleman- Lands’ life. Growing up, many of his family members played the sport, and by high school he was nation- ally recognized as a star player. As a freshman at the University of Illinois, he set a school record with 87 3-pointers during the 2015-2016 season.

This made it all the more difficult for Coleman-Lands last year when he transferred to DePaul and was required to sit out a whole year due to the NCAA transfer rule.

That was my first time being away from the game and not be- ing on a team, or really being on a team but not being able to play,” Coleman-Lands said. That strange state of being on the team, but un- able to contribute made last year a long and arduous one for the Illinois transfer.

Likewise, the Blue Demons also had a difficult year, losing to Marquette in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Seeing his teammates struggle was hard for Coleman-Lands. “It was a struggle for sure,” he said. “I just wanted to help lead the team.”

Coleman-Lands also was re- habbing an injury, which meant he couldn’t participate in practice either. DePaul head coach Dave Leitao says that for most players this would create a disconnect be- tween the player and the team.

“Jalen’s a different individual,” Leitao said. “He handled that as well as he’s handled anything that has come his way since we first met, and got through as well as anybody could. Sure, he had his tough days where he wished that he was on the court and all that. But I think that knowing he would get here eventually allowed him to get through those days.”

Despite being unable to play, Coleman-Lands still made the game a priority in his life last year. Coleman-Lands was still able to provide valuable feedback to the team from his spot on the sidelines.

“The time off also allowed me to watch and learn some stuff too,” Coleman-Lands said. “Now I’m just making that transition of using stuff I learned while sitting out, now transitioning into me actually playing is a completely different thing.” That struggle of returning to basketball after such a long layoff was echoed by Leitao, who says Coleman-Lands’ maturity helped him get through last year.

“I know he’s hungry to get better and to show the world just how good he can be,” Leitao said. “Like anything else, it’s just getting back up and down the court, and getting a feel for the game again— especially with an audience now, so I think that’s the next step for him. But I don’t think he’ll have any problems because he’s a very, very unique guy.”

One of the biggest things that Coleman-Lands says helped him him through last year was the connections he formed with his fellow teammates. Senior guard Max Strus, who also had to sit out a year after transferring from Lewis University, said he was able to relate to what Coleman-Lands was going through.

“I’ve been through what he went through,” Strus said, “So that was what I think I really tried to fo- cus on with him last year. Because it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re sitting out and watching games, especially when we aren’t winning because he knows he could help.”

Strus says for transfers students like him and Coleman-Lands, the only thing you can do during your year out is to keep your mind on the future.

“I just reminded him every day ‘just keep practicing, keep going to the gym, and you’ll make it all work this year,’” Strus said.

Junior guard Eli Cain says it’s partially because of Coleman- Lands maintaining that energy last year that has allowed him to be a player to watch now.

“He put a lot of pressure on himself, as he should, and did what he had to do to get back,” Cain said. “I think when we see him on the court you’re going to see how that work paid off.”

While Coleman-Lands didn’t appear on the court with his team- mates, they say he helped them get through hard times last year.

“J. Cole was very good,” said Strus. “He started and maintained relationships last year. I think that, ultimately, helped us out last year, a lot.”

That close bond between the Blue Demons is part of the reason many of the players are excited about this year.

“I think that one of the biggest differences between this year and previous years is that this is a true family,” Cain said.

For Leitao, there’s more to the year’s lineup than just the natural talent of his players.

“When you look at Jalen, you have to respect somebody who can make this many shots, particularly from behind the three-point line,” Leitao said. “But the biggest point of optimism for me is that we’ve got a very clean locker room: all of our athletes want the same thing and there’s nobody fighting. It’s just about learning how to play with each other and getting better every time we get on the court.”

Coleman-Lands said it was surreal to finally to be back on the court with his teammates.

“I’m still trying to get used to it, but I’m just appreciative being able to be out here with the rest of these guys,” Coleman Lands said. “There was times last year when I felt like I just had to be out there, so I’m looking forward to being able to help my team as best I can.”