Men’s basketball captain overcomes obstacles of his past to pursue a bright future
By Tara Gessler and Evan Paputa
Staff Writer and Sports Editor
Adversity can create challenges in a person’s life and shape them in unimaginable ways.
When adversity strikes, the decisions that are made can define a person’s character.
Schoolcraft men’s basketball captain Terrence Coles went through a bit of a “rough patch” growing up.
Temptations of fast money and expensive things got the best of Coles and forced him down the wrong path. Most people would assume it was his peers that pressured him into this destructive behavior. In actuality, it was Coles’ own desires that were the driving forces. Coles wanted a life of luxury and was willing to get it the quickest way possible: selling drugs.
At all costs
It all began when Coles was 13 years old. The feelings of indestructibility overcame Coles as he went from stealing cars, selling drugs, and doing everything else in between. He was in and out of juvenile prison throughout high school. Coles was caught selling drugs in October 2007, and was later arrested on April 20, 2008. Coles was sentenced to six years in prison on Oct. 6, 2008 at the Federal Correctional Institution Elkton in Lisbon, OH.
Coles looks back on this date as not only when he was sentenced, but also remembers it as being his late brother Grady Jeffries’ birthday, who had died a few years prior. He accepted the consequences that he had to face, but thought about Grady throughout the day of his sentence.
“I was young and not exactly all there yet,” Coles said.
With his mind and heart in another place, Coles was taken away immediately after being sentenced and was unable to say goodbye to his family.
“My mother wrote me every week. Once e-mail was allowed, she e-mailed me every day. She encouraged me to do right even when I wanted to keep doing wrong. She has been a huge support system throughout my life,” Coles said.
“Larenzo was my big brother when I was in prison; we both grew up in Detroit,” Coles said.
Both Coles and Marable grew up right around the corner from each other in Detroit. While in prison, they decided to look after one another. The close bond between the two still continues today.
In 2010, Coles failed a drug test. He lost two years of visitation for family, 60 days of good time, along with having to stay in “the hole” for three straight months.
“The hole” is an isolation (“segregation”) cell, used as punishment for the most paltry of offenses as well as serious offenses. Having no outside contact, Coles turned to reading books to pass time.
When his three months were up, Coles’ perspective on life had changed. He realized it was not just a game. He decided to get his life in order, get out of prison, and get home to start a new life away from crime.
Basketball doesn’t build character, it reveals one
Coles played basketball throughout his time in prison. Both Marable and former NBA player Henry James saw a future on the basketball court for Coles. Marable coached Coles on his shooting technique and his jumping and discovered his untapped athletic ability in the process. Coles continued to play as he served his time; all while Marable stood by his side and encouraged him continue playing after prison.
“We played basketball and Larenzo told me that I needed to play college basketball,” Coles said.
Before prison, Coles had only played basketball for fun. He was never part of an organized team or coached at all.
When Coles got out of prison on April 26, 2012, two years early because of good behavior, he decided to devote himself to turning his life around with the guidance of his sister Denise and Marable. Coles didn’t waste any time.
“I never thought about trying school. I knew I could do it so I took on the challenge and decided to try it,” Coles said, “Basketball was never part of my plan. It became a part of my plan in 2012.”
Believe and Achieve
Schoolcraft College became part of his plan in 2012 when he was determined to walk-on to the men’s basketball team. The team had a large number of players
trying out and Coles was a late arrival. He worked extremely hard and ended up making the team as walk-on.
“He worked hard every day during his two years with us and was always pushing his teammates to be better players. He took the captain position for his sophomore year and grew as a true leader, on and off the court,” said former Schoolcraft Assistant Coach Vitor Imbuzeiro.
Coles earned Player of the Week honors in December 2013 for a 43 points and 18 rebound performance against Muskegon Community College.
Coles was also awarded MCCAA Second Team All Conference as well as being ranked as one of the top five rebounders in the country for the 2013-14 season.
At Schoolcraft, Coles met his best friend, Terrell Sewell, as well as his wife, Chelsea Nguyen, who have made a huge impact in his life. Coles and Nguyen met in 2012 as friends. It didn’t take them long to realize they wanted to further their friendship into a relationship.
“If I wouldn’t have came to Schoolcraft, I wouldn’t have met my wife and Terrell,” Coles said, “I am really glad I did.”
Looking into the future, Coles plans on playing basketball at another college while also getting an education. He doesn’t know where he is going to go but will be taking Chelsea and their newborn baby Terrence Jr. with him.
When Coles finishes his schooling, he would like to become either a nurse, or guidance counselor. His main focus would be to help people.
Coles has many responsibilities and is thriving off of the challenges. Coles now has a family as well as school to keep him busy. He has done a complete turn-around for the better of himself as well as others.
“Terrence did everything. Hard work has gotten him to where he is today,” Sewell said.
Everyone makes bad choices, but it is what you chose to do after that matters. Growing up and learning from his past, Coles has seen two walks of life and has chosen to remain on the successful path.