People in Champaign should be very excited about having Jalen Coleman on campus next year. The 6'4, 185 pound shooting guard anchors the best recruiting class John Groce has had in his time at Illinois. With commitments from Coleman, DJ Williams, and Aaron Jordan, the Fighting Illini are poised to alter the B1G landscape in 2015.
Coleman can shoot. He already has a sweet three point stroke, but even more impressive is his off-ball court vision: he finds open spots beyond the arc at an incredibly impressive rate for a 17 year old. Usually good three point shooters don't develop that (important) skill until they spend some time in college, so coming into school with that skill should be a boon for the rest of the team. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective, and while he's not going to be Kyle Korver, Coleman could affect the game similarly to Korver: if he moves constantly, opponents are going to have to mark him, which is going to unclog the paint and open up passing lanes. The Illini offense stalled out for long stretches of time last year, but with Coleman and the rest of the incoming class, this should be a high octane attack.
Coleman handles the ball well enough to play his role and while he has looked in one on one situations and shooting off the dribble, those looks are going to be hard to come by in college. That said, there are definitely signs that he has the potential to develop into a ball-dominant shooting guard or spot point guard. He understands how to use the pick and roll effectively for a shooting guard, but he's going to have to work on his passing in traffic to be effective in those roles. His ability to get to rim does stand out, though: he can catch the ball about 18 feet out, cross over, and blow right by most defenders. While he's not very fast, he has a quick first step. Once he gets to the rim, he has the hops to finish in traffic and already has a couple of nifty up and under moves. He can absorb contact surprisingly well for someone so wiry, as well.
He's going to have to bulk up to be an effective perimeter defender in the B1G; right now he's definitely an offensive player. Put another way: he's lucky that Mike Thorne is going to be anchoring the paint next year. HIs rebounding isn't great either, but, again, the rest of the roster can probably cover him on that front too. You'd like to see him look for the open man on offense more frequently as well, especially considering the fact that Illinois is going to be stacked with talent next year. He'll be really good either way, but if he's going to take home B1G freshman of the year next year, he's going to have to round out his game. Honestly, he's so polished offensively that there really isn't much to put in this section.
Athletically, Coleman's similar to Manny Harris: they're both skinny, 6'4, not-super-fast shooting guards with a quick first step. Coleman's ceiling is considerably higher than Harris', though. If Coleman plays the way I think he will for Illinois, then Bradley Beal is probably the most accurate comp: strong three point shot, pretty good handle, ability to finish at the rim, and can use the pick and roll effectively for his position.
Coleman and Illinois are going to be legitimate threats in the B1G next year, and both have the chance to be really, really good. Judging by his game, Coleman shouldn't have too much trouble meshing with his new teammates next year, and if things come together, any of the three freshmen on the team could challenge guys like Deyonta Davis and Harry Giles for B1G freshman of the year honors. Players like Coleman are going to make the B1G a whole hell of a lot of fun next year.