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Justin Coleman talks business, basketball and Buffett

Justin Coleman (BSBA '16)

Justin Coleman (BSBA ’16)

Justin Coleman’s senior year undoubtedly was a memorable one. In 2014, he earned a spot on the UNC men’s basketball team as a walk-on. Coach Roy Williams awarded him a scholarship for the 2015-16 season.

We sat down with Justin (BSBA ’16) – a standout student in the Undergraduate Business Program – to talk business, basketball and Buffett.

Why did you choose to study business?

Business applies to everything. It’s part of every profession, whether you’re a doctor or a basketball player. It’s a major that can help me in anything that I do.

What are your career goals?

Through my Business School classes I’ve developed a fascination with and love for investments. It’s like a game in and of itself – you have to look at what’s going on in the world and how it might affect the market. I interned at KDI Capital Partners and really enjoyed it. I’ve watched interviews with Warren Buffett and he talks about how he’s been reading books about investments since he was about 10 years old. I feel like if I can be true to the game like him and really study what works and what doesn’t, investing is something that I could become great at.

Working out with the team. (Courtesy of Justin Coleman)

Working out with the team. (Courtesy of Justin Coleman)

I’m not going to turn down any opportunities with the NBA, but as far as long term, I want to get my MBA and have that learning experience. Even if I were blessed enough to play professionally and make millions, I would still want to come back. I always want to keep learning and keep growing.

How does your experience as an athlete translate to being a business student and vice versa?

What motives me is a drive to reach my full potential. In school, people get wrapped up in thinking, “We need to finish this assignment” or in basketball, “We need to win this game.” But it doesn’t matter if you just win one game or just get an A on one project – the game keeps going. After we get our degrees here, we keep going.

A lot of times people get discouraged and intimidated by the fact that they have to compete with others, but what I’ve learned is to never focus too much on my opponent. I feel like if I focus on trying to become the best that I can be, the competition will take care of itself.

Why is a team-first mentality important for success on and off the court?

Basketball is a game that reveals character. When I put the team first, my talent comes out. I think that bodes well for me in business. At the end of the day, you need everybody on your team to contribute. Know what the team’s goal is and what you can do to help. Find your niche. By putting in the work, you naturally develop as a leader. The Business School is a big team and the things I learn here definitely help me on the court.

Justin Coleman - UNC Kenan-Flagler

Justin Coleman on the court with Joel Berry (Photo courtesy Jeffrey Camarati/UNC Athletics)

How does reflection help you work towards achieving your goals?

Reflection is huge – you have to know yourself and who you want to be before you can move forward.

I think people get reflection and regret mixed up. In life, there are never do-overs. But we’re not perfect, so obviously there are going to be things we look back on and say, “I shouldn’t have done that.” At the end of the day, you have to embrace it and realize that it’s all part of the process. If I struggle with something, I know for a fact that it’s going to be more motivation. If I know I didn’t do well on an assignment or do well in the first practice or week of conditioning, I adjust and keep working because I can still be a great player by the end of the year. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

You’ve overcome many obstacles in life. What have your experiences taught you about perseverance? 

A lot of perseverance is defiance. You’re not going to reach your full potential if you’re worried about fitting into society, and you can’t let what others say you’re supposed to do influence what you know you can do.

What off-the-court accomplishments are you most proud of?

Getting into the Business School – it’s proof that I’ve been a great student, and I say that in the most humble way. I’m just thankful. It’s a very prestigious school, and not everyone gets the chance to attend. Any time I do well on an assignment and achieve things here, it gives me a lot of confidence because it’s a top-notch place.

Courtesy of Justin Coleman

Courtesy of Justin Coleman

If you were going to start a business with one of your UNC basketball teammates, who would you choose?

I’d choose Kennedy Meeks and Joel Berry for anything in the entertainment business. Kennedy is very funny and empathetic – and you wouldn’t expect it, but he’s very good at singing and dancing. I’d have Joel acting or doing standup comedy. He might be the funniest person I’ve ever met – he can make anybody laugh.

What is your definition of success?

If I can steadily improve over the rest of my life, not lose heart and provide for the people around me, that’s success. I know can’t do it myself. I believe in God and He’s provided miracles for me.