CHAPEL HILL, NC (WTVD) -- The odds are you've never heard of UNC senior guard Justin Coleman. He appeared in 10 games for the Tar Heels last season.
But after joining the team as a walk-on, he's been offered a scholarship for the 2015-16 season, and the story of his past is nothing short of remarkable.
Coleman played high school ball at Broughton High School in Raleigh. In May, 2010, he was playing in an Amateur Athletic Union game when he was clipped by a trailing defender and went down hard into a wall.
"It was like diving into a pool headfirst," Coleman recalled.
Coleman suffered a broken neck and his prognosis was not good.
"My surgeon said when he saw it his heart dropped," Coleman said.
Experts tell us 90 times out of 100 the type of injury Coleman suffered results in paralysis from the neck down, but somehow Coleman was in the lucky 10 percent.
"My whole body was in shock, but I could move everything," he said. "The whole time they kept getting me to push my toes down and fingers because looking at the x-rays, they didn't understand how I still had feeling."
Feeling meant a future and doctors told Coleman he'd be back on a basketball court within months.
"That was kind of my light," he said.
Coleman put off returning until his senior season. But then the following spring - a year to the day of that dunk attempt - his life pivoted again.
On his way to the pool with his sister, Coleman made a left turn and he never saw motorcyclist Rubin Smith. Smith collided with Coleman's car and died on the spot.
"Accidents happen, but, it's like, I don't see it that way. I'm accountable," said Coleman.
Charged with failure to yield, Coleman said he was consumed with guilt. But again, a miracle of sorts happened. Smith's wife and mother embraced him at the conclusion of the court case - offering up forgiveness, and a request.
"They told me they wanted me to be successful for them. So, when that happened, them showing me forgiveness, it gave me every reason," said Coleman.
He returned to basketball and was a captain on Broughton's conference title-winning team that year. It was then off to Carolina where he tried out for and made the junior varsity team. Last year, he got the call up to varsity
"It was surreal, like an out of body experience really," he said.
While Coleman saw action in 10 games last year, scoring a single point in his 19 minutes of action, actually playing was just icing.
"Just to be in it. Just to be in the mix, I can't put it into words," he said.
UNC Head Coach Roy Williams would eventually take Coleman's story to new heights. In the middle of August, Coleman was called on by his coach.
"'I'm gonna put you on scholarship' and man, he almost broke down, which almost made me break down," said Williams "We stood in the office and hugged."
"Tears like coming, shock," said Coleman.
"As a coach, you think about big wins and all that, but really some of your truthfully great moments are those private personal ones with players," said Williams.
"I'm just very, very thankful for this chance," said Coleman.
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UNC basketball player Justin Coleman has a remarkable story
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