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bsn BSN: Checking The Resume: Awaiting Collier’s Look

Discussion in 'CU Buffs Newsroom' started by RSSBot, Dec 22, 2015.

  1. RSSBot

    RSSBot News Junkie

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    In the game of college basketball, there is no position more important than point guard. There is no singular player more responsible for others’ behavior, their pacing, and the shots that they take.

    Essentially, a team’s point guard is the person in each group who routinely downs two or three fewer drinks than everyone else just so that, by the end of the night, he can, at least, tell the cab where to drive. Or talk to the cops. Both are necessary.

    It should come as no surprise then, that so much chatter surrounding the Colorado Buffaloes and their 10-1 start has to do with their sophomore point guard, Dominique Collier, and whether or not he has what it takes to lead a talented group to heights that few saw coming this season.

    I’ve been asked on message boards, Twitter, and via group texts that, frankly, I should probably just opt out of. When will he break out, they ask?

    In trying to answer such a question, I couldn’t help but to look back.

    Five years ago, during this same holiday season that drives everyone towards their local shopping mall to decide which friends and family members are worth ten dollars more than others, I ran into an old friend of mine who played Division I basketball on the front-range and had stayed involved in the local scene since graduation.

    “You seen the kid at Denver East,” he asked. “You need to.”

    Admittedly, I didn’t know who he was talking about. I’d heard rumors about some kid in Denver who was supposed to be the next great player out of Colorado. But had I seen him? No.

    So I changed that and headed down to ThunderRidge to see the Sweet 16 matchup between the hosting Grizzlies and the visiting Angels, led by none other than a high school sophomore version of Collier.

    Denver East lost the game, 52-49, and while I was walking back to my car in the parking lot, I started flipping through the notes I’d been taking on his performance. Collier tallied 25 points in all, 11 of which came from the charity stripe–though my notes indicated that several of those trips should have been and-one situations if he had the physical strength to finish through contact. The majority of my notes, however, pointed towards a player who sensed the moment, who, in the final quarter, decided that the only way his team was going to win was if he took the game over. And he did, nearly leading the comeback single-handedly.

    Over the next two and a half years, I’d venture to say that I watched Collier play more than 100 times in a variety of venues, from high school competitions to AAU tournaments and skills camps. Other than his own teammates, coaches, and parents, I feel confident in saying that no one in the country watched him play more basketball over that stretch than I did.

    Of course, covering the Colorado men’s basketball beat, I formed a relationship with him as well through that period. The first time I inquired about interviewing him, it was his mom who wanted to screen the questions first, making sure that her young son (on his way back from USA camp practice in Colorado Springs) didn’t say anything stupid. His parents, in time, became friends and the community around Denver East basketball became much like a second family, embracing the overweight, bearded guy who never knew how to dress for work.

    While journalists, especially those who also fancy themselves as scouts, remaining impartial is supposedly vital. However, as a young professional, it became very difficult. I began actively rooting for Denver East at the games I went to, even rooting for the player that I was writing up scouting reports about. Quite frankly, I became a fan of his, both as a player and as a person.

    One night, while watching an East practice in their auxiliary gym with coaches from Northern Colorado, San Francisco, Iowa, and Creighton, one of them asked me if I thought Collier could be the man for a high-major program, the leader that carried a team on the road into a hostile environment and put the game in his own hands, much like he had two years prior against ThunderRidge.

    I’d like to believe that my answer was impartial, that the fandom and support I’d developed for Collier, his team, and his family didn’t cloud my judgment. At no point in my time covering him did I fail to acknowledge his shortcomings, like that his release point on his shot was far too low, his athleticism not quite where you’d like it to be, and that his motor had room for improvement.

    Still, my answer was that, yes, I believed he could.

    After all, I’d seen him hold more than his own against Melo Trimble, now an All-American at Maryland, just months prior at the July AAU events hosted in Las Vegas. I’d seen him dominate Quentin Snider, now running the show at Louisville, while sitting alongside one of his current coaches who wondered, aloud, how in the world Snider could be ranked ahead of Collier on any recruiting site.

    Two years later, as we sit here now, that prediction has yet to come to fruition during his time in Boulder.

    By nearly all accounts, Collier has bestowed truth on Tad Boyle’s claim that a player makes his biggest improvements from freshman to sophomore year. His per game averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals are all up, substantially so. While he’s still struggling from the field overall, though still hitting at a higher clip than a year ago, his percentages from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line have both seen astronomical improvement from a year ago. Outside of games against Iowa State and Northern Colorado where he had six and four turnovers respectively, Collier has racked up an average of 4.1 assists per game to just 1.2 turnovers per game. Particularly, in the last five games, he’s averaged eight points, 5.6 assists, and four rebounds per game. He’s been a key piece for a team on the brink of a spot in the AP Top 25.

    Yet something is still missing, like the look Collier used to have in his eye while at Denver East. The smile he cocked after mixing up an opposing defender on the break, blitzing past him in the open court and finishing acrobatically at the rim.

    It’s the look I saw when he came out of the huddle that night in Highlands Ranch, the first time I watched him play. The one that can take Colorado from being a pleasant, but ultimately nonthreatening surprise, a team that can compete in a wildly wide-open Pac-12 race.

    Call it unprofessional if you must, but I want to see that damn look.

    It is a look that can have college basketball pundits asking each other, “Have you seen that kid at Colorado?”

    William Whelan
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