The internet rumors were true — sort of.
Late Wednesday night, rumors surfaced on Twitter that Arizona Wildcats point guard Justin Coleman dislocated his shoulder in practice Monday and would be sidelined indefinitely as a result.
Arizona coach Sean Miller confirmed Thursday after the win vs. Colorado that Coleman did, in fact, dislocate his shoulder Monday. However, the senior still played in the Pac-12 opener, as the injury is not as severe as originally feared.
“We didn’t know how bad it was, it could have been real bad,” Miller said. “I think in the levels of a dislocated shoulder, he’s in maybe the best level. He’s already made tremendous progress. He’s a really tough kid.”
Coleman played four minutes early in the first half before the team decided to pull the plug and rest him for the remainder of the game. Coleman went through pregame warmups as usual and sported a white undershirt.
“The reason we played him tonight was he’s not at any further risk to hurt himself and sometimes you never really know until a guy gets out there,” Miller said. “So once we got him out there and he started playing, I think it was in everyone’s best interest to just kind of (rest him) and let him keep getting better.”
Coleman was the only Wildcat to not score in Arizona’s 64-56 win, but he did post two assists and one turnover. Miller wasn’t sure if the injury, which is to Coleman’s non-shooting shoulder, affected his play.
“It’s hard to tell,” Miller said. “I listened to both Justins, (trainer) Justin Kokoskie and Justin Coleman. No. 1 is he able to play and then once he’s in there, you have to listen to the athlete because sometimes when they haven’t practiced and they’re not out there every day, the game feels funny. And I think Justin did the best that he could. It was great that he was even able to contribute at all.”
Miller hopes Coleman can take on an increased role against Utah on Saturday when the Wildcats look to improve to 2-0 in the Pac-12. In the meantime, Arizona will lean heavily on freshman Brandon Williams to take the reigns.
Usually a two-guard, Williams made his first collegiate start at point guard Thursday, and had a team-high 14 points and a game-high six assists, with just two turnovers.
“Obviously J Cole was out, so I had to step up,” Williams said. “Just leading the offense and just being that vocal leader, kind of like the quarterback of the team, looking at guys off pick and rolls and just making smart decisions.”
Miller thought Williams did an “excellent job.”
“That’s not an easy situation that he walked into,” Miller said. “First Pac-12 game, Brandon although he’s played the 1 quite a bit this year, he’s predominantly played off the ball with Justin being our point guard. So to just kind of throw him to the fire like that he did a really good job.”
Williams believed he was up for the task, since he has served as Coleman’s backup and regularly plays point guard in practice.
“When we practice, he always plays the point guard because you need two, Red versus Blue,” Miller said. “Sometimes we keep those guys on the same team, but for his own development and to protect our team, you always want to have three guys that can play that position in case of an injury because it can really change everything. So him and Alex Barcello are the two others, and those guys did a good job tonight.”
At the same time, Miller knows how important Coleman is to Arizona and its postseason aspirations. He is the team’s best shooter, one of its two team captains, and still its best option at point guard, even if Williams is proving to be a capable fill-in.
“We don’t have a large margin for error,” Miller said. “We have to play well, we have to play hard, and we have to be healthy. Having Justin Coleman not be a part of what we do isn’t a good thing, so hopefully we can continue to work him back in.”