The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team has placed senior guard Justin Coleman on an athletics grant-in-aid and added junior guard Kanler Coker to the roster for the 2015-16 season.
Coleman, a native of Raleigh, played in 10 games last season and had three assists. He attended Broughton High School and played on the UNC junior varsity team in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
“We had one scholarship available and we realized what kind of youngster we had on our team as a walk-on,” says head coach Roy Williams. “What he did for us last year, the quality of his character, the kind of adversity he has overcome in his basketball is really off the charts. Justin’s a unique young man, a fine young man.
“I went into the players’ lounge and said to the team, ‘Guys, how about saying hello to our newest scholarship player.’ They really got excited, which was a neat moment.”
“When I found out, it was surreal,” says Coleman. “It was one of the most special moments of my life. I realize it’s not something that happens to everyone in this lifetime. I’m extremely grateful and humbled by the opportunity that Coach Williams and the University have given me.”
Coker played quarterback on the Tar Heel football team from 2012-14, but was unable to continue his football career due to an elbow injury. He appeared in three games – against Virginia and Old Dominion in 2013 and Liberty in 2014.
Coker attended Gainesville North Hall High School and Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, where he played both point guard and shooting guard on the basketball team.
“I found out I was on the basketball team before one of their summer practices,” says Coker. “Coach Williams pulled me aside and told me he wanted to have me on the team. Playing basketball here is something I’d always dreamed about, so it was almost like a moment I couldn’t explain. I immediately thought about calling my parents. My little brother, Keaton, passed away from brain cancer last year, so he’s been on my mind the whole time I’ve been working for this goal. It was a really emotional moment for me.”
“I met Kanler five years ago when football was recruiting him and he said that he wanted to play basketball if possible,” says Williams. “After an injury ended his football career, Coach (Larry) Fedora contacted me and asked if I was interested in giving him a look. So he played a lot of pickup with the guys and participated in our four summer practices. I told him after those practices that he had made the team.”
Coker is a medical non-counter for football grant-in-aid and can’t remain on a football scholarship if he plays on the basketball team.
“We don’t have a scholarship available, so to be on the basketball team, Kanler has to go off the football scholarship and pay his own way,” says Williams. “Kanler talked to his parents after I offered him a spot on the team and he came back and said, ‘Yes, I want to be part of the basketball program.’ That certainly says a lot about the youngster’s love of basketball and desire to be a member of our team.”