Expectations were high for star basketball recruit Syretta Coleman entering this season. Coleman, a second team All-American her senior year at Chandler High in Arizona, was expected to join former high school teammates Jessica Combs and Lindsay Taylor. The UCSB women’s basketball team lost floor general Stacy Clinesmith to graduation, and Coleman was expected to contribute immediately.
Instead of leading the charge for UCSB, Coleman will sit out the rest of the season due to multiple setbacks.
Coleman ran into trouble before the season started, getting arrested for shoplifting at the UCen Bookstore, and consequently, being suspended for the Gauchos’ first 13 games of the season. Taylor, a redshirt freshman center, was saddened when hearing news of Coleman’s initial suspension.
“She is such a good point guard and sees the court really well,” Taylor said. “I was definitely disappointed that she wouldn’t be with the team this season and be able to help us out.”
When Coleman was finally cleared to return by Athletic Director Gary Cunningham, she played sparingly, averaging 14 minutes of action in two games. Santa Barbara tried to work her back into its playing rotation, but with sophomore point guard Debby Caine playing well, minutes were hard to come by for Coleman.
At that point in her turbulent season, Coleman was still struggling to find her place on the team. The point guard was constantly feeling sick and throwing up with regularity, according to UCSB Head Coach Mark French. Team doctors diagnosed her with a severe case of the flu, but after several weeks with no improvement in her health, more tests were run. This time the doctors made a new diagnosis: Coleman had a bacterial infection that causes an ulcer, most likely caused by extreme stress.
Coleman still wanted to play and be a part of the team, yet the entire situation became a distraction and French was forced to make a decision.
French finally settled on sitting out Syretta Coleman for the rest of the season and appealing to the NCAA for a medical redshirt. French said that it was a difficult decision to make, and added that he expects Coleman to be back next season and she will be an integral part of the team.
“My expectations for Syretta, if she’s healthy next year, is that she’ll be one of the best guards in the country,” French said. “I think she has the chance to be one of the best players in the history of our program.”
For the rest of the season, Santa Barbara will rely on sophomores Caine and Jess Hansen to fill the point guard duties, and the team believes that there will be no drop-off at all.
” I’m very pleased with how Debby and Jess have handled the uncertainty. They both did a great job before Syretta got reinstated, and I’m sure that they’ll both play well for the rest of the season,” French said.
All the while, the Gauchos have remained the team to beat in the Big West, going undefeated in conference games thus far.
“We’ve been playing with the same 10 players for the vast majority of the season,” said junior Kayte Christensen, the team’s leader. “And I think with those 10 players we’ll finish the season playing excellent basketball.”