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Getting buckets: Deebo Coleman, James Collins heading to final four

West Nassau star player hit career milestone last week; Collins, an area hoops icon and now Jackson coach, knows that spotlight well

Jackson basketball coach James Collins (red shirt) talks to his team during a practice leading up to the state semifinals in 2020. Collins is among the best basketball players the area has produced.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two of the most prolific scorers in the history of boys high school basketball in our area are both heading to the state final four in Lakeland.

One will be on the floor, the other will be on the sidelines.

Before West Nassau’s Deebo Coleman began his senior season, he declared his intentions to play college basketball at Georgia Tech. At the time, Coleman had scored 1,797 points in his career for the Warriors. In the regional finals, Coleman poured in 34 points to eclipse former Nease star Chet Stachitas and move into second place on the all-time scoring list with 2,506 points. Only Myron Anthony, who starred at Fletcher in the 1990s has scored more points than Coleman.

One of the players that Coleman passed in the career scoring column on the way knows that spotlight well. Jackson coach James Collins, whose Tigers play in the state semifinals on Wednesday, remains one of the most dominant, well-known basketball names in area history.

Collins’ playing career, which concluded with a state championship as a senior in 1993 and the Mr. Basketball award, is in the second phase of his career as a coach at his alma mater. This is his third straight trip to the state semifinals. Collins has been where Coleman is now.

“It’s gonna be a big memory for sure,” Coleman said. “Especially with that being my last home game played in that gym. I sacrificed blood, sweat and tears, and that is definitely a big memory.”

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Coleman’s 34-point night to surpass Stachitas was satisfying for West Nassau coach Ran Coleman, Deebo’s father, who watched as a coach and proud parent.

“He’s gone through a lot a lot of junk defenses,” Ran Coleman said. “And I’ll say, all 2,500 of those points have not been easy. No, he had to work for them night in and night out.”

West Nassau guard Deebo Coleman (No. 3) rises to shoot a jumper in the Warriors win over Hilliard last season. (2020)

Now, the Coleman’s and the rest of the Warriors are heading to the final four for the first time in the history of the school.

“It was always was a goal,” Ran Coleman said. “That was the whole mission. That’s what we wanted to do.”

You don’t have to go too far down the list of top scorers to find Collins. In his high school career, Collins scored 2,212 points, now good for sixth-best in area history.

And he will remind you that he did it in a shorter period of time. Back then, high school was just three grades, as freshmen spent their time at junior high school. Collins went on to become one of the most dominant high school players in Jacksonville-area history. He led Jackson to the Class 2A state championship in 1993 and won the state’s Mr. Basketball award that season. Collins was the first player from the area to win that award, and the only one until Paxon’s Isaiah Adams won it last year.

“There is an asterisk by that because they’ve had four years, I only had three,” Collins said of the 2,000-point milestone. “I broke that record in three years. They broke it in four. But I’m really happy for them. It’s a very exciting time for (Deebo) and everyone. And hopefully, we’ll have more kids that come out and be as good as Deebo was in his career. Because it’s good for basketball.”

Both Deebo Coleman and Collins agree that there comes a time in a game where the star has to assert himself, something that both Coleman and Collins have done in key spots. Now, only Coleman can do the same for his team. Collins can only watch and hope.

“There have definitely been times like that because we’re down,” Coleman said. “I know when they are hitting shots, it has taken a lot of pressure off me. And it opens up for everybody else. But yes, many times when I’ve been missing, that’s when I step up and try to get a basket.”

Collins’ Jackson team faces Bishop McLaughlin Catholic Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Coleman and West Nassau tips off against Santa Fe on Thursday at 10 a.m. Impact Christian is the first local team to play in the final four this year. The Lions matchup with Southwest Florida Christian at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. This marks Impact’s third trip to the state semifinals. The Lions have been state runner-up twice.

About the Author:

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.