Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Though Bill Coleman’s twin daughters played basketball from an early age, their approaches to the game were quite different. Bianca, the younger of the two by a whole minute, took basketball seriously from the get-go, spurred on by the fact that both of her parents had played college hoops and loved the game.
“She would be dribbling down the court with one hand,” Bill recalled, “and waving to the crowd with the other.”
Sofia Coleman (above) and her sister star for their dad's team on the summer circuit. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
While it took Sofia a little longer to come around to taking hoops as seriously as the rest of her family, there’s no doubt she’s gotten there. Now entering their senior years at Gwynedd Mercy Academy, Bianca and Sofia Coleman are on-court standouts who are about to end one extremely meaningful part of their hoops career as they prepare to begin the next.
From their birth — one minute apart, 17 years ago — the Coleman twins were part of a basketball family. Their father and mother, Yolanda Fontanez Coleman, had both played at Moravian College in the Lehigh Valley, and Bill will be the first to admit his wife’s career overshadowed his own.
They raised their girls with hopes but no expectations of letting them play hoops, allowing the pair to come to the sport in their own way.
“He didn’t really push us,” Bianca said, “but I watched him coach and then I used to practice with his old teams so I was always there with him, but he didn’t push us.”
“We let them figure out their way, it wasn’t like ‘you’re going to do this,’” Bill Coleman said. “But once Sofie said ‘I’m in,’ we’re all in with it. Same thing with Bianca, same with our youngest daughter [Emilia, 13]. They’re in, we know it, we’ll help them along the way. We let them dictate the pace.”
Bianca Coleman (24) and Sofia Coleman (25) playing together for their dad's Comets Basketball team on July 21, 2021. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
By fifth grade, at which point the family patriarch was head boys’ basketball coach at Pennsbury High School, the twins had picked up the game, their dad coaching them during the summers. By the seventh grade, that group got picked up by one of the area’s top programs, Comets Basketball, and have played under that banner ever since.
On Wednesday, Coleman’s Comets were participating in the Inside Events’ War Games NorthEast event at Competitive Edge, a live-period event which had all sorts of Division I coaches in the building. Quite a few were courtside as the Comets beat the City Rocks 55-42, a clear sign that while this might not be the Comets’ Under Armour Association squad, there’s no shortage of talent on the roster.
Though players like Anne Welde (Cardinal O’Hara), Abby Meredith (Sanford, Del.), Kathryn Fricker (Cherokee, N.J.) and Angela Berrera (Gloucester Catholic, N.J.) all played big parts in the win, the Colemans were all over the court.
Bianca, a 5-10 wing guard with interest from Division I programs, didn’t hit a shot but grabbed 11 rebounds, two steals and a block and dished out eight assists.
“I don’t have to get a set number of shots,” she said. “I just want to win.”
Sofia Coleman practices her shooting during the winter of the COVID pandemic. (Photo courtesy Coleman family)
Sofia, a 5-10 wing committed to D-II Kutztown (Pa.), missed her first six shots but then found her rhythm and finished off shooting 8-of-16, including 4-of-9 from deep, to lead the way with 20 points. That’s a new trick in her bag, which the rest of the Catholic Academies found out the hard way during her junior year. Credit to days spent out shooting around the hoop on the Colemans’ Dresher deck during the COVID pandemic, even through the winter’s snow.
With the Coleman sisters playing a big role alongside current St. Joe’s freshman Kaylie Griffin, Gwynedd Mercy won the District 1 4A crown and topped Allentown Central Catholic in the first round before losing to eventual champs Archbishop Wood in the quarterfinals.
“I was not able to shoot my freshman and sophomore year of high school, and I definitely changed that for my junior year,” she said. “I was definitely the X-factor for Gwynedd because no one knew I could shoot until the end of the season.”
“She was a post player who couldn’t even touch, was not allowed to touch the ball. Was not even allowed to bring it up,” Bill Coleman said. “All she did was set screens and rebound. And she decided to flip the script on everybody.”
Summers are the time for the Coleman family to be on the court together, Bill on the sidelines and the twins on the court, Yolanda in the bleachers.
Bianca Coleman (above) is being recruiting by several scholarship programs. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“I didn’t really like basketball when I was younger, I wasn’t very focused on it, and as I’ve gotten older, he’s pushed me harder and that’s the player I am today,” Sofia Coleman said. “He’s not the one to tell me to go shoot, I do that on my own, and sometimes he needs to keep me in check, but I’m glad he’s like that just because I want to be where I am.”
Winters are tougher: Bill Coleman’s duties are to his Falcons, while the girls have their own practices and games, often at the same time.
“After practices, he sprints back to our place to watch and be with us,” Bianca Coleman said.
“I don’t see them a lot in winter, I see them on film a lot, at night,” Bill Coleman said. “After our games, and I watch our film, I literally will stay up and watch their games. And I start texting them, ‘you should have done this, what did [GMA coach] Tom [Lonergan] say about that play?’”
They’ve got one final tournament together, this weekend at Spooky Nook’s massive complex in Manheim, Pa. Then it’s on to recruiting visits for Bianca — who mentioned the US Military Academy at West Point as one potential landing spot — and the twins’ senior year, with college courts and classrooms waiting in the background.
It’s a realization tens of thousands of kids around the country will have this weekend, that they’ve just worn an AAU jersey for the last time. It holds some extra weight for the Coleman family, as it’ll be the last time that a father gets to coach his daughters. Bill Coleman has tried not to think too much about what happens this weekend. Neither have Sofia or Bianca, who called it “bittersweet.”
“I’ve been trying to avoid it,” Bill said. “This week was like ‘holy crap — Sunday, it’s over.’”
“It’ll be heartbreaking knowing that it’ll be the last time getting coached by my dad,” Sofia Coleman said. “But it’s (the) next chapter.”