Mercedes-Benz’s current slogan is “The Best or Nothing.” That same slogan could also be used to describe Gordon Central’s Mercedes Coleman, who has elevated Lady Warriors’ Basketball by expecting the best out of herself every time she steps onto the court.
On Jan. 7, Coleman officially wrote her way into the history books, surpassing Staci Miller Banks’ record of 1,542 points to become Gordon Central’s all-time leading scorer.
“It just feels good,” Coleman said on the feat. “I did that through my teammates, not just me.”
“She’s good because of the people around her,” Lady Warriors head coach Matt Swanson said. “She doesn’t want the spotlight. She’s accomplished so much and never one time has it been about Mercedes.”
Coleman’s not high on the accolades and the recognition. Her determination and focus speak for themselves.
“When it comes to basketball, it’s business,” Coleman said. “It’s not joking and funny. I get to business in basketball.”
Growing up mainly around boys, Coleman said she quickly fell into the game of basketball. From there, she rose steadily up the ranks.
After just one season of junior varsity, she competed on Ashworth Middle School’s varsity squad her final two years. Upon moving a stone’s throw away to Gordon Central to begin life as a high schooler, Coleman joined the Lady Warriors’ varsity team and had an instant impact.
The Lady Warriors qualified for the state tournament for the first time ever during Coleman’s freshman year. Now, Coleman and Co. look to make it three playoff appearances in a row.
Coleman said the biggest lesson she’s learned in basketball is how to dribble with her left hand.
“When we got her, she was a really good player,” Swanson said. “She’s kind of learned to go left (handed) more. I think she’s deadly behind the three-point line. She’s really become a leader and always leads by the way she plays on the floor.”
While Gordon Central fans have seen knock down shot after shot, Coleman exudes behavior atypical of a solo shooter.
“One thing about me, I like to pass,” Coleman said. “I feel like if I shoot too much or do my own thing too much, I’m a ball hog, but sometimes I share too much.”
Swanson chimed in he loves seeing Coleman thinking to share the ball, but there comes a time when she is presented with an opportunity to take control of a contest.
“That’s somewhere she’s gotten a lot better at,” Swanson said. “She is very unselfish ..., but she’s starting to understand more now when it’s winning time, it’s Mercedes time.”
Outside GC’s season, Coleman competes in travel basketball. This year, Coleman expressed interest in competing with an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team.
“The sky’s the limit for Mercedes,” Swanson said. “She’s got as much skill as anybody I’ve ever been around. She’s got to get in the weight room (and) work to get stronger.”
Coleman has her sights set on taking her game to the collegiate level after graduation from Gordon Central High School.
“In my opinion of being around girls basketball for 20 years, she’s a low D-I, D-II dominant ... player,” Swanson said. “Wherever she goes to school ... they’re going to love her because her work ethic is unbelievable. You can’t run her out of the gym. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
So what drives Coleman? A fundamental aspect at the core of the game of basketball. Good, old fashioned competition.
“I just like to compete,” Coleman said. “If I see another team and I know they’re good, I’m going to try my best to do my part.”
Swanson said, in turn, that competitiveness is contagious.
“The girls that were OK with being .500 or a little under .500, they see her go out there and compete, and they wanted to compete just as hard as she does,” Swanson said. “I think that’s what makes her a great leader.”
Speaking of leadership, next season will be Coleman’s final in the blue, silver and white. As she is a soon-to-be senior, Swanson mentioned she already possesses leadership qualities.
“It always sets your program when your best player is the first one at the gym and the last one to leave,” Swanson said. “I’ve had good players that played at the collegiate level, but they wasn’t the first in the gym and they wasn’t the last one to leave. Another thing is her will to win. She’s got a will to win that sets her head and shoulders above anybody I’ve ever coached.”
Swanson has had the good fortune of having Coleman on his roster the past three years. Swanson said she’s not only just a tremendously skilled basketball player, but also a good person.
“She’s not ever going to disappoint me,” Swanson said. “She could go out there and score two points tomorrow night and us lose, but she’ll never disappoint me. She’s a great human being who cares about others. She’s an incredible basketball player, but what makes me more proud of her than anything is that she’s just a great human being.”
On Jan. 14, Coleman scored 33 points as Gordon Central beat Model 54-39, sweeping the regular-season series for the first time ever. Swanson said before Coleman entered the program, GC had not won against the Lady Devils.
“She puts all of her personal accolades to the side for Gordon Central,” Swanson said. “That says a lot about her.”
We may be in the midst a legend coming into her own. We’re witnessing history in the making.