FORT WAYNE – Venture all the way back to high school, when he led his Scottsdale teams to back-to-back state championships and was the consensus golden child among Arizona basketball players, Kevin Coble was already in the high-speed lane of a career destined for greatness.
While his basketball skills as a 6-foot-8 forward with a sweet jump shot and a quick first step got him attention from nearly every school in the country, particularly those in the southwest, it was his 4.0 grade-point average that got him into Northwestern, where he became an instant success.
Coble led the team in scoring, 13.4 points per game, as a freshman. The following year he led the Wildcats again, averaging 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. And as a junior, the numbers were strikingly similar of 15.5 and 4.8.
Surely, his statistics would climb as a senior.
Except there would be no senior season. Thats where he came to a complete stop in the passing lane.
A foot injury – It was a Lisfranc fracture, Coble said. I basically ruptured ligaments in my mid-foot. – sidelined Coble for the 2009-10 season. And while he hoped to return for the 2010-11 season, that never occurred.
He was hearing two different things. His surgeon said he needed more time to heal. His coach, Bill Carmody, insisted that Coble join the team for a late-August, early-September, four-game trip to Italy, even if it meant Coble was to not play.
So it was in late July 2010 when Coble announced that his basketball-playing days were behind him, at least at Northwestern.
A year and a half later, Coble resurfaced on the bench of the Mad Ants in the NBA D-League. The Ants (11-27) play host to Maine (15-22) at 7 p.m. today.
I knew it was going to be tough coming in, Coble said before a recent practice. I talked to (president) Jeff (Potter). I talked to coach (Steve Gansey) and sort of got a sense of where they think everythings at with me. Each day is going to get better than the last. I think if I can keep that up over the next month or so that by the time the season is over, Ill have gotten a good idea of where Im at and where I think I can go.
In three games with the Ants, he has played 21 minutes. Hes 2 for 5 from the field with seven rebounds.
Just getting back to the feel of playing games, its been hard to replicate that, Coble said.
Its slow-going, he says, but thats part of the process.
Hes a great shooter, Gansey said. He came from a great system at Northwestern, but he hasnt played in two years. Hes still getting adjusted to the speed and strength of some of these guys, but hes a great kid.