For King coach Colson, another Pub crown would add to impressive resume

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Sean Colson has Martin Luther King High in the Public League 5A championship game.

YOU WANT to read a basketball resume? Sean Colson, head coach of the Public League's Martin Luther King Cougars, has one that would shatter the unwritten rule of being a page long. Along the way, Colson has made stops at three colleges, the NBA, Italy, Russia - and that isn't half of it. But the experience section of Colson's resume starts when he was a kid, growing up in North Philadelphia.

"It was rough, typical North Philly neighborhood with the violence and the drugs. But it wasn't all bad," said Colson, who will lead MLK into Friday's Public League 5A championship matchup against undefeated Mastery Charter North.

"I learned a lot of great things. I feel like in my growth and development that played a big part, because it made me tough."

That toughness continued with Colson in high school. Colson started at Franklin Learning Center, but didn't play for the school. Disciplinary issues caused Colson to leave FLC and attend John Bartram High School. While there, Colson watched Gratz defeat FLC for the second straight year to win the Public League crown. That summer, Colson had his sights set on Gratz, eyeing a third straight Public League title.

Colson woke up on the first day of school, ready to take the subway to Gratz. Then he experienced cold feet.

"Gratz had won it two years in a row, they had a lot of people. They wanted me, but I think if I go down here (to FLC) and do big things, I could make a (bigger) name for myself," Colson explained. "It'd be a better story."

Having that in mind, Colson decided - at the train station - to head to FLC, without consulting a soul. It took some convincing on Colson's part, but he was welcomed back into FLC. Colson didn't disappoint, as he led the Bobcats to the 1992 Public League championship, over - you guessed it - Gratz.

Philly basketball shaped Sean Colson.

"I liked Public League basketball because it's tough. It molds you. You're dealing with different things, different people, attitudes, circumstances . . . all kinds of things. So, for me, coming from a single-parent home, it made me tough. Everything I do in life, I'm tough."

Toughness had become a recurring theme in Colson's life, even to this day.

College basketball was the next step for Colson. Of the roughly 50 schools that sought him, Colson and childhood friend and ex-Houston Rocket Cuttino Mobley chose the University of Rhode Island, where they envisioned being an unstoppable tandem.

Circumstances changed, when Colson tore his Achilles' tendon in the first practice of his freshman year. He made his way back, but the situation wasn't the same. Not wanting to lose a year of eligibility, Colson transferred to junior college. After a strong showing, he went through the recruiting process all over again. Powerhouses such as Mississippi State and Cincinnati, to name a few, were suitors. Lower-tier UNC-Charlotte also expressed interest, but Colson was faced with a similar decision he had to make in high school.

"I can go to the powerhouse, Cincinnati . . . No. 1 . . . (coach) Bob Huggins. Or, I could go to UNC-Charlotte. They're OK, but I think I could make a big difference. Imagine if I go here and we beat Cincinnati. Big story," he said.

Colson picked the underdog, leading the 49ers to the NCAA Tournament twice. He was second in the country in assists his senior season.

An incident he did not specify at the beginning of Colson's senior year was held over his head all season and cost the point guard when it was draft time. Teams shied away from Colson, and he went undrafted. Colson then had to take the scenic route to reach the NBA. He played in the Continental Basketball Association, United States Basketball League, and even a short stint in Venezuela. However, Colson was never deterred.

"When I was in the CBA, I always had confidence," said Colson. "I told my grandmom and mom I was going to make it when I was 3 years old."

The Philly battles among Colson, Alvin Williams, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Lawson and Mobley morphed into an inseparable friendship, as each player got older and advanced in his respective career.

"Rasheed Wallace, 13, 14 years in the NBA . . . Alvin Williams, 10 years in the NBA . . . Cuttino Mobley, 10 years in the NBA. I'm not going to not make it. I feel, 'Why are they making it and I'm not?' " said Colson. "Those guys used to always tell me, 'Yo, you're going to make it. Your path is different.' "

Both Colson and his childhood friends realized how difficult his path was. But, like his childhood friends, Colson finally got the call from the NBA. A lifelong dream had been achieved.

Colson played three games for the Atlanta Hawks, before heading back to the CBA. Colson got another shot, this time with the Houston Rockets, reuniting with Mobley. Colson finished out the 2000-01 season with Houston, playing a total of 10 games.

"It was a dream come true," he said.

Colson never made it back to the NBA. Instead, he played in 11 countries until 2011, including Poland, Italy, France and Russia. While in Italy, Colson led the country in scoring and assists and was also named an MVP. The best part, though, might be a surprise.

"They had me on Pepsi cans and selling them all around the country," he said. "So, I would have American guy friends and their wives going into supermarkets calling me, like, 'Yo, is this you on the Pepsi can?' Once in a blue moon, I'll put it up on Instagram and Facebook and everybody goes crazy."

Upon Colson's return home from overseas, he had to transition into the next phase of his life. He had aspirations of being a college coach, but did not have the required bachelor's degree. Colson did not finish his degree at UNC-Charlotte, but is in pursuit of it now.

Instead, Colson was approached by friends and the principal about an opening at MLK. After Colson initially declined, his friend Dennis Caldwell persuaded him to take the job in 2012.

Colson guided the Cougars to their first-ever Public League title in 2014.

"The biggest thing I like is player development," he said. "I like watching a kid and helping him get better. That's what it's about, to me."

As this phase of Colson's life continues – with hopes for another Public League crown – he is striving toward another dream: being a college basketball head coach, another line to add to his already rich resume.

csharp@philly.com

@CorSharp20