NATCHITOCHES – Shreveport native Kendal Coleman chose to stay close to home and attend Northwestern State, but he’ll be bouncing a basketball halfway around the world in early July.
Coleman will continue an NSU basketball tradition of traveling with Athletes In Action, a Christian organization that organizes tours around the world with the goal of personal and competitive development.
The Captain Shreve product will be one of eight college basketball players headed to North Macedonia for a 10-day tour, which includes four games against U20 teams from around the region.
NSU men’s coach Mike McConathy, who has sent close to 10 players with AIA including recent tours by LaTerrance Reed, Chudier Bile and Ishmael Lane, said the experience greatly impacts its participants.
“It’s a great experience because you’re playing with other guys that are Division I athletes, and you figure out where you fit,” McConathy said. “AIA is an extremely strong Christian organization led by Mike Sigfrids, who has done 30-plus tours through the years.
“But it’s given our players confidence in the past because you’re playing against a Power Five guy every day in practice, and they start realizing that they can do the same things that this gentlemen is doing.
“A lot of times, a guy can have a great freshman season and then go into a sophomore slump. With only eight players, that means Kendal will get to play a lot, and I think it’ll help him take the next step.”
Baylor assistant coach Bill Peterson will lead the squad. Peterson was McConathy’s assistant at Bossier Parish Community College.
“Bill has been an NBA player development coach and a D-League coach, so this gives Kendal a chance to work with somebody that knows what it takes to play at the pro level,” McConathy said. “The benefit is really unlimited, and Kendal and his parents are really excited.
“He’ll have five days of camp in North Macedonia before they play games, and that’ll be great because he’ll be expected to work at a different rate.”
Coleman joins Baylor’s Zach Loveday and LJ Cryer along with Texas A&M’s Quenton Jackson and Texas State’s Isiah Small.
Other players hail from Dallas Baptist, John Brown and Fairmont State.
Coleman is coming off a freshman season in which he averaged nearly seven points and seven rebounds in more than 17 minutes per game. He led the team with 33 blocks as a 6-foot-8 force in the paint.
The group leaves the U.S. on June 30 and will fly out of Dallas to Chicago, and then on to Vienna, Austria, before heading to Skopje, Macedonia.
“The goals of this tour are to provide a rich cross-cultural experience for each team member, an opportunity to compete internationally and for team members to grow in their personal faith,” said Sigfrids, who has worked with AIA for nearly 50 years. “Athletes In Action focuses on developing athletes and coaches as leaders of influence on and off the field.”
PHOTO: Erik Williams/Southland Conference