What’s best for Sherron Collins?

April 8, 2009

The Kansas Jayhawks’ 2008-09 season was over for only hours before the topic of Sherron Collins’s future began to resurface. In the days that have passed more and more people seem to be weighing in on the issue and even throwing the names of other local stars into the ring as potential early-entry candidates for the NBA Draft.

I will make my position on this clear. Sherron Collins is the poster boy for the player that has no business considering the NBA Draft this year. Collins needs not just another season of college basketball to improve many aspects of his game, but even more importantly, he needs to graduate and have a degree to fall back in case pro ball doesn’t work out quite the way he imagines it will.

Sherron Collins

Sherron Collins

The one person with not just the ability, but the responsibility to make that point to Collins is his KU coach, Bill Self. Collins clearly respects Self and told the Kansas City Star in response to the question whether he would be staying or jumping to the draft that “Self would be ‘heavily’ involved in that decision, indicating that he would do whatever Self thought was best for him.”

If Self examines this situation, the answer is clear. Having Collins back is what’s best for the coach, the player and the program.

Many think that Collins has NBA potential simply because he has been named second or third All-American by carious outlets. Those are nice awards, but have very little bearing on Collins’s potential as a pro.

The Star‘s Jason Whitlock wrote a column Saturday on the Collins topic. He connected Collins’s future at KU to the school’s ability to land a big name recruit named Lance Stephenson. But if one reads between the lines, Whitlock himself gives the facts to support the other side.

Of course Collins and KU will be better off if Stephenson chooses to head to Lawrence and is as good as advertised. But that has nothing to do with the question: Is Collins ready for pro ball?

In summing up Kansas’s loss on Friday, Whitlock wrote:

“The pressure, once again, was too much for Collins. He tossed up a couple of bad shots and passes. He nearly air-balled a one-and-one free throw. You can say Collins melts under pressure. I say Collins has absolutely all of the pressure on him and has more opportunities to be the hero or goat than a typical player on a top-15 team.”

Now let’s say I am a professional scout or general manager. Regardless of how dazzling Collins’s individual talents are, leadership and ability to perform under pressure are two things I need to see out of a point guard. If the pressure “once again, was too much for Collins,” I need to think long and hard whether I want him on my professional team.

And there is a reason I say professional and not just NBA. Although clearly Collins is targeting only the NBA, he, like so many other talented players, will soon discover the European game. Countless college stars who dreamed of the NBA instead play many seasons and earn mucho dinero playing in the top leagues in Europe. But many big names come over and find that they simply don’t fit in.

And I’m betting dollars to donuts that Collins fits that build. As a scorer with a point guard’s body, he has not shown the skills needed to run a team-first offense. He has a legitimate low-post presence for the college game in Cole Aldrich, but has not mastered the two-man game with him. And like so many big name college point guards have discovered in recent years, there aren’t many places in Europe for a point guard if he doesn’t make those around him better.

So Collins’s options are as follows: Gamble on the NBA now, hoping to find a team that will give him a guaranteed contract and try to build on his raw skills, knowing that failure there would leave playing in the D-League as his only other path. Or stay in school, work on his shortcomings with Self, try and repair his image as someone who doesn’t thrive under pressure by leading KU to some success and most importantly, earn a college degree that will be so valuable if the whole professional basketball thing doesn’t work out.

And believe me, it’s no sure thing that it will.


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