Sherron Collins looked like the best player in college basketball back in January when he relentlessly refused to let his team lose against a loaded Baylor team that was on fire in Allen Fieldhouse. Collins played 38 minutes, didn’t turn it over once, dished four assists, scored 28 points and answered every challenge in in-your-face fashion. Remarkable performance.
Venerable Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan knows a winner when he sees one. Ryan, who’s been covering the Celtics since the days of black high-top Converse sneakers and buzz cuts, took in the game with his wife.
“He’s Ty Lawson,” Ryan said when I asked him what he thought of Collins.
Lawson, the former North Carolina point guard, averaged 8.3 points and 3.1 assists in 20.3 minutes a game for the Denver Nuggets as a rookie this past season. High praise and it seemed to fit so perfectly.
During ESPN’s Thursday night coverage of the NBA Draft, Collins was reduced to a punch line.
When interviewed after getting selected by the New Orleans Hornets, Cole Aldrich was asked about playing with Chris Paul, a deluxe facilitator. Aldrich said he was used to that, having played with Collins at Kansas. It was nice of him to mix in a plug for his former teammate. It backfired. Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, blessed with a terrific dry sense of humor, referred back to it when news broke that Aldrich was being traded to Oklahoma City. He said OKC needed size, “Plus he needs to be traded if he’s comparing Sherron Collins and Chris Paul.” Ouch!
Van Gundy’s brother, Stan, coach of the Orlando Magic, later in the draft praised his brother for what he called the line of the night.
Collins never had Chris Paul talent, but if he did everything right from the moment that Baylor game ended, comparisons to Ty Lawson could have gained momentum.
Yet, after Baylor, save for some big games here and there, Collins didn’t keep the buzz about him alive. His final game, a five-turnover, 4-for-15 shooting effort against Northern Iowa was among his worst. Teammates’ body language that night hinted they thought he hogged the ball.
After the season, Collins blew off the team banquet. That sort of thing gets around and when you’re 5-foot-11 and face a constant battle to stay in shape, you have to do things to make teams talk themselves into taking a chance. You can’t do things that make teams wonder.
Collins’ weight needed to go down after the season. It went in the other direction. As draft night wore on, Collins started feeling like a longshot to get chosen. Finally, on the 60th and final pick of the night, Collins was drafted. That would be Dwayne Collins, a forward from the University of Miami.
The evening’s punch line took a punch to the stomach from reality.
Collins and his agent will try to find a team lacking in point guard depth and attempt to hook on as an undrafted player. Just six players listed as a point guard or combo guard were among the 60 players chosen. Of those six, only 6-1 Eric Bledsoe of Kentucky is shorter than 6-3.
The best shot always comes on draft night. Collins missed that one.