Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 | 1:21 p.m.
Dunking in high school basketball is typically a rarity.
But Bishop Gorman senior Kylel Coleman has turned it into an art form.
The shooting guard has earned such a reputation for his jams that fans at the school's House of Glory gymnasium have come to expect them each game.
Now, he hopes to excites fans at the Orleans Arena during the large-school state basketball tournament. Gorman won the Sunset Regional title on Friday to advance to this week's four-team state event.
"Dunking used to be exciting for me, but now I do it because I know the crowd wants to see it," Coleman said. "When fans get excited, that gets me excited, and I like to feed off the crowd. It keeps me motivated to work on that part of my game so I can keep doing crazier dunks."
Coleman's dunking ability is unexpected given his height. Gorman's roster has him listed at 6-feet tall, which is generous. But Coleman more than makes up for a lack of height with uncanny leaping ability.
Eighth-year Gorman coach Grant Rice said he hasn't seen a jumper as impressive as Coleman before.
"We don't measure their vertical jump, but speculation is he's had the highest vertical we've seen since I've been the coach here," Rice said. "He's one of the top high school athletes I've seen in the area in a while. He definitely can attack the basket."
Rice said Coleman's dunks often come in abundance. One reason being his teammates have come to anticipate him on alley-oop. Also because Coleman is one of the top defenders on the team, often leading the Gaels in steals that lead to his own fast breaks and dunking opportunities.
The coach added dunks have a significant impact on momentum, particularly at the high school level.
"It's cliche to say a dunk is just two points, but it can really change a game in your favor," Rice said. "Some teams may go a whole year without having a dunk, but if a guy gets three or four in a game, it really gets his team going. I've seen Kylel have as many as six in one game."
Coleman also has taken the majority of the team's jump balls, a duty often reserved for the tallest players on the court.
More often than not, Coleman wins jump balls against players more than half a foot taller than him.
"It's crazy how fast he gets off the ground, because he wins jumps against people that are 6-8, 6-9 and he's just 6 foot," Gorman point guard John Loyd said. "It's amazing to see how much athletic ability he has. Every time I'm in the lane the first person I look for is Kylel. I love to throw it up and see what he can do with the ball."
Coleman has also found his leaping ability useful when getting separation from defenders while taking jump shots. Shooting is an aspect of his game Coleman has tried to implement more this season to become a well-rounded scorer. He currently leads the Gaels by averaging 15 points a game.
"Most of the time I'm against bigger guards, but since I jump so high I'm able to shoot over them," Coleman said. "People always ask how I can shoot over defenders when I'm 5-11, 6 feet. I just jump as high as I can on my shot because that's what you're supposed to do."
Rice said a player can improve their jumping by doing squats or toe raises, but leaping ability like Coleman's is God-given.
"My family says it runs in the family, but I haven't seen anybody in my family jump as high as I can," Coleman said. "When I was little I used to flip a lot and always worked on my legs. But I really don't know where it comes from."
Despite his size, Coleman's athleticism has gained the attention of potential colleges. He is currently being recruited by Santa Clara, San Diego State and Gonzaga.
But Coleman said he doesn't plan on making a decision on a college until after the high school season. By that time, Coleman said he hopes to showcase a few more artistic dunks to wow Gorman fans.
"I've been watching a lot of Vince Carter and trying to do the dunks I've seen him do," Coleman said. "I've done a 360 — a lot of people like that. One of these games I'd like to just try and tear the rim down. I think that would be crazy. But I'll definitely pull out some new tricks for the last part of the season."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].