Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2007

Keegan: Collins ready to lead

June 10, 2007

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Basketball in his right hand, left hand at his side, Sherron Collins stood in the right corner of the Free State High gymnasium Saturday, beyond the three-point line, and eyed the rim. Swish.

Collins turned to his left, looked directly at Roger Morningstar, and said, "See that? One-handed."

Better still, the knees he bent to take the shot were both healthy, and supporting just 200 pounds again.

Lost in the whirlwind surrounding Brandon Rush's knee injury is the less severe problem that subtly undermined Kansas University's chances of reaching its first Final Four since 2003.

During a stretch of 12 games against Big 12 teams, when Collins was both healthy and lean, he averaged more than 13 points off the bench. Then his knee began to hurt, and his extra weight-shaving workouts were curtailed. Pounds returned. His explosiveness was gone. He wasn't blowing by people the same. He totaled two points in the two tournament games in San Jose, Calif.

"It was my knee," Collins said of the primary reason he was not the same player at the end as he was in the middle of his first season of college ball. "The defense didn't really change. It was the pain in my knee. It hurt every step of the way, every time I tried to run or put pressure on it, or when I jumped. It was pretty painful to play through, but I just wanted to win so bad. It was nothing the defender did. It was just my knee was too painful to get around him."

The diagnosis was patellar tendinitis.

"It was just tired, worn down," he said. "My knee on the outside got so tight, I had tendinitis, a real, real bad case. It just inflamed it, and it got real swollen, a little fluid got in there."

The pounds that crept back onto his 5-foot-11 frame cheated him of quickness, but clearly were a secondary factor to the knee injury. Collins said he has been assured he shouldn't experience the same problem with his knee.

"Cheddar did a good job with me this summer, and I'm back, 100 percent ready to go," Collins said.

Cheddar?

"B.C.," he said.

B.C.?

"Bill Cowgill, our trainer," Collins said.

Oh, right. Cheddar.

The knee injury was a tough break for Collins, who was playing such phenomenal ball before it surfaced. Obviously, he knows it could have been worse.

"I feel sorry for Brandon that it had to happen to him the way it happened because he probably wasn't going to come back to college basketball," Collins said of Rush's Anterior Cruciate Ligament surgery. "... I know he's going to work hard, he's going to come back, and we're going to be even better than we were going to be. We're sorry for him, but we're happy to have him back, and we're just going to encourage him to work hard through this process."

Regardless of Rush's progress, there will be times when Collins, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers will be on the floor together.

"We're all fast," Collins said. "We're scrappy. We're not going to back down from anybody, either, so it will be a sight to see. I think we'll be able to get under a couple people's skin, get under 'em, get them aggravated, turnovers here and there."

Collins will lead, the team will follow.

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