Collins on familiar turf in adjusting to Terps

Freshman point guard no stranger to changes

College Basketball

November 02, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Andre Collins knows plenty about the need to adjust.

Ever since he graduated from Crisfield (Md.) High School in 2000, life has been a series of changes for the 5-foot-9 freshman point guard.

A year ago, in need of academic help to qualify for the Division I scholarship the University of Maryland had offered him, Collins enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

"I had to adjust to getting up at 6 in the morning, lights out at 10 and a whole bunch of rules. I really didn't have freedom," Collins said.

"The rooms were very small. I've never been to jail, but we used to compare it to jail. My time was mapped out every day. I had somewhere to go, something to do every minute, every day. It was all about discipline. People got kicked out every week. ... It wasn't enjoyable."

But it groomed Collins, who qualified academically last spring, for the opportunity to play for the Terrapins. They will step up their preparation for Thursday's season opener against Arizona by facing the EA Sports All-Stars in Maryland's exhibition opener tonight at Cole Field House.

Before he joined the Terps, Collins averaged 15.6 points and 8.0 assists while leading Hargrave to a 27-1 record. He led the team in assists and was second in scoring.

Now, all Collins has to do is adjust once more - big-time. There is the grind and pace of the Atlantic Coast Conference to digest. And every day in practice, there are experienced guards Steve Blake, Juan Dixon and Drew Nicholas to confront. Suddenly, Collins is no longer the quickest man on the floor. That also has not been enjoyable at times.

"It's the pace that he has to catch up with," senior forward Byron Mouton said. "He just got here, and he is still learning the pace."

Said Blake: "He still has a lot to learn, but he can be a tough guy to play against, with quick feet and being so low to the ground. Guys like that can give you problems."

It remains to be seen whether Collins, whom teammates have nicknamed "Mini-Me," can make a serious dent in Maryland's rotation.

Coach Gary Williams would love to see Collins eventually force his way into the top backup role behind Blake. Williams likes the way Collins handles the ball and creates his own shot, and he says Collins could develop into an extra defensive option if the Terps become more of a pressing team.

"Having a guy like Andre gives us more flexibility," Williams said. "I still want Drew Nicholas to handle the ball, but I can envision Drew, Andre and Steve on the court at the same time, if we wanted to be really quick."

Few were as quick as Collins while he was becoming a prep All-American at Crisfield, where he scored 2,152 career points and never averaged fewer than 10 per game as a four-year starter. As a senior, he led Crisfield to a 25-3 record and a Class 1A state title and was named Eastern Shore Player of the Year, averaging 30.5 points, 9.9 assists, 5.1 steals and 4.9 rebounds.

Then, he took the long way to Maryland, where he said he has always wanted to play. Collins even said the news that the Terps had gotten an oral commitment from blue-chip point guard prospect John Gilchrist did not make him think twice about his decision. Gilchrist is expected to sign during the one-week signing period that begins Nov. 14. He will join the freshman class of 2002.

"My role is whatever the coach wants me to do. Help Blake or Drew or Juan get better, make practices better, do what is expected of me," Collins said. "I'm just anxious to be part of this team and do something good."

NOTE: Williams said he probably will start Tahj Holden and Chris Wilcox in each half tonight at power forward. Holden suffered a left knee sprain at Tuesday's practice and was limited Wednesday, but is expected to be at full speed for the exhibition opener.

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