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Archive for Friday, February 7, 2003

Collison gains acclaim

Senior leading candidate for Wooden Award

February 7, 2003

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There's a chance -- some say a darn good chance -- Nick Collison's No. 4 jersey will be hanging from the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse next season.

"I hope so. I think that would be a great achievement," said Collison, Kansas University's soft-spoken senior forward, who has vaulted to the top of FoxSports' Wooden Award watch, meaning he is analyst Frank Burlison's top candidate for national player-of-the-year honors.

"It's not really in my hands. The only chance is if I'm an All-American or if we go to the Final Four and we play really well there."

Collison is KU's leading scorer at 19.2 points per game and rebounder at 8.9 per game.

To have his jersey retired, Collison would need to be named a consensus All-American, national player of the year or NCAA Tournament MVP.

Collison's first-team All-America and Wooden chances seem good, especially since there has been a Collison craze nationally since his 24-point, 23-rebound effort against Texas on Jan. 27.

"It's great to be considered," Collison said of player-of-the-year honors.

The senior ranks fifth in KU history in scoring (1,799 points), fourth in rebounding (950) and fourth in blocks (204). He ranks third in Big 12 Conference history in scoring, trailing only Bernard King of Texas A&M (1,824) and former Iowa State standout Marcus Fizer (1,830).

"That'd be a great opportunity to have a chance to win that," he said of the Wooden Award. "There's a lot of season left. A lot of guys are playing well. I can't control that because so much of it is statistics and things like that.

"I know a lot of it is timing. If you are playing well ... it's always good to do well in a televised game."

The Texas game was broadcast by ESPN's Dick Vitale, who has been listing Collison and Texas guard T.J. Ford as possible Wooden winners. Other top candidates are Brian Cook (Illinois), Dwyane Wade (Marquette), Kyle Korver (Creighton), Chris Thomas (Notre Dame), David West (Xavier) and Jason Gardner (Arizona).

Not to be forgotten is KU senior guard Kirk Hinrich, who averages 17.6 points per game off 49.6 percent shooting, including 45 percent three-point shooting, for the 12th-ranked Jayhawks (16-5 overall, 6-1 Big 12). Hinrich, who averages 3.6 rebounds per game, has 74 assists to 35 steals and has had huge high-profile games against Texas (25 points) and Missouri (24).

"If you watch our team, you see how important he is to us," Collison said of the 6-foot-3 Hinrich. "If we didn't have him, we'd definitely be in worse shape than now. You look at Kirk and the first thing you see is how much he loves the game, how hard he works. He plays the game so hard."

Iowans Collison and Hinrich never will be caught campaigning for individual honors. Both are quiet types -- at least when talking about themselves.

"I have a little fun with people I know real well. I don't have a lot of interesting life stories or hobbies I'm involved in. I bought 14 DVDs the other day. I went on a spending spree," Collison said with a laugh. "That's about it."

Collison has 145 DVDs in his collection. He makes buddies sign out when borrowing them.

"It's pretty good for not having much money," Collison said. '''Forrest Gump' is my all-time favorite. I've been buying a lot of comedian's shows like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and 'Kings of Comedy.'"

Why the movie craze?

"When I first got to college, I didn't have a lot of time to go out and do anything and would get tired a lot, so I'd watch movies and rent movies. Eventually I started collecting them," he said.

Kansas will travel to Kansas State Saturday. Tipoff is 12:45 p.m.

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