By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Coaches love to talk about guys like George Coles. No matter how successful your team is or how many stars you can put in your school’s colors, every coach knows the reason for success is the guys who never get their name in the paper, or who rarely do enough statistically to earn a game ball.
Guys like George Coles, a senior guard at Holy Spirit during the basketball season and a kid who also plays football and lacrosse while maintaining an outstanding grade-point average, are what coaches refer to as “glue guys.” First-year Spartans basketball coach Kyle Dhyne will tell anyone, anytime, just how valuable Coles was to Spirit’s 16-9 record this year that included a run to the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament and Non-Public B South semifinals.
“He transferred over to us his junior year (from ACIT) and he didn’t see much time that year, but he had a great summer. He did stick it out and he played an important role for us this year. Defensively, he was a monster. He hounded every opposing point guard from one end to the other. Something you don’t see is that he hounded Jahmir (Smith) every day in practice to make him better. He was really valuable in that role for us as well,” Dhyne said. “He brings a spark because that’s what our team was all about this year — defense. We preach that from the beginning, and to have somebody like him be able to come off the bench and defend the point guard like he can provided a spark for us.”
“It was sports (that drew me to Holy Spirit), playing football and lacrosse, and also I could continue with my basketball career. I just wanted to fit in and whatever the team needed, that’s what I was going to do,” said Coles, an Absecon resident. “Over the summer I worked a lot on dribbling the ball and shooting the ball. I know I can always play defense. In the summer league, coach was telling us we were going to get after it this season and I knew that meant we’d be doing a whole bunch of running. I knew I had to come in here and make a spark wherever I can and do all the little things.”
Coles was one of just three seniors — along with Sean Kane and Will Marable — on a Spirit roster dominated by an outstanding junior class that features point guard Jahmir Smith, guards Ky Gilliam and Jamil Wilkins, and forward Jayden Llanos. Coles rarely got to start a game, but played some very important roles for the Spartans. Whenever Smith got in foul trouble or needed a breather, Coles was right there to step in. He could also play the off-the-ball guard position, and sometimes Dhyne would throw him in there with Smith if he really wanted to turn up the defensive pressure on an opponent.
“The biggest thing is he never turns his motor off,” Dhyne said. “He’s constantly on the go, constantly going full speed. He’s very valuable in that you can throw him in there with Jahmir and now you have two points guards who both can defend really well, or if Jahmir got into a little foul trouble we’re able to throw in George, a kid who is just as good defensively, can handle the ball and can run the offense. He was a very valuable piece to have.
“I’m glad he’s getting a story done about him because he’s a kid who deserves that,” the coach added. “With the team we have, he’s not really in the spotlight. We have those four juniors who take up a lot of the attention. But there was one game when both Jahmir and Jamil mentioned George (in the story after the game), and that shows a lot of what the kids think of him. They recognize what he brings to the table.”
“Every practice we pushed each other — every sprint, every drill, we all just pushed each other to get better. We’d press each other full court, both of us would be out of breath but we’d keep pushing each other. That made us both get better. Guarding one of the top guards (in the CAL), I knew if I could guard him, I could guard anybody,” Coles said. “We had a tough loss against St. Joe and another tough loss against Lenape, but every practice we’d just forget the losses and move on to the next game. We tried to play every game like it was our last. Obviously, our season didn’t end the way we wanted to, but we still fought every game.”
Dhyne said Coles knew exactly what his role was, and, more importantly, was willing to perform in that role whenever called upon. That’s not always easy for a senior to realize they won’t get a lot of playing time, but when they do they need to be ready.
“I’m from Absecon and George is as well, so I saw him play growing up through third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade. I’ve known him for a while now,” Dhyne said. “George bought into everything we’re doing here. I told him, ‘you’re going to get your opportunities, you’re going to play. Play with confidence, go out there and play defense — we’re not looking for anything special from you, just make all the right plays and do all the hard work.’ And that’s what he did. He accepted that role and he was happy with it. He just wanted an opportunity to play.”
Coles also was an outstanding lacrosse player, a long-stick middie who led the Spartans to a berth in the CAL final this year.
“He’s a great kid,” Dhyne said. “He leads by example. He actually lightens the mood at times. He’s a funny kid, and a great teammate. He’s also a very good student. He just earned ‘Student of the Month.’ He’s a really good kid.”
Coles, who said he plans to attend Stockton University this fall to begin studying criminal justice in what he hopes will be a career in law enforcement, is just trying to soak it all in before he graduates next month.
“I’ve been really busy this senior year. I’ve been in the weight room, at practice and studying, and just repeating that every day,” he said. “I really liked this (basketball) season. There was no real best part, I just loved every second of it. We were all business. It was heartbreaking to lose to Prep (in the CAL Tournament). It was tough to see the season come to an end, but I feel like I played every game like it was my last and I didn’t take anything for granted.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullsays