(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
Andre Collins comes home from work at around 7 p.m. and is greeted enthusiastically by his fiancée, Ashley, and their 10-month-old son, Andre Jr. For the rest of the night, the Collins family enjoys each other’s company in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, fully furnished apartment that is paid for by Andre’s employer.
The next morning Collins bids his family goodbye, hops into his company car and begins his drive through Caserta – a picturesque city in Southern Italy nestled at the foot of the Campanian Subapennine mountains. Soon after, Collins arrives at his place of business and begins earning every penny of his six-figure salary.
Professionally, Collins is doing exactly what he always set out to do after finishing college. The former Maryland and Loyola point guard is now in his sixth year as a professional basketball player, this season with Otto Caserta of Italy’s Serie A division.
“It most definitely happened the way I dreamed it could,” Collins said of his pro career. “I’m happy.”
Collins’ overseas success probably won’t come as a surprise to those who watched him star for tiny Crisfield High on the Eastern Shore. And his accomplishments in Italy shouldn’t be a shock to Loyola fans that saw Collins finish his senior season with the Greyhounds as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer. But between a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia and a redshirt season as a transfer at Loyola, Collins spent two-plus seasons glued to Maryland’s bench.
Playing a minor role for the Terps wasn’t something Collins ever expected after his All-American prep career. But the time he spent in College Park – including his freshman season when Maryland won the 2002 national championship – was crucial in preparing him for life as one of Europe’s most accomplished point guards.
The conclusion of Collins’ high school career ended where his college career would begin less than two years later – Cole Field House. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound point guard averaged 30.5 points, 9.9 assists, 5.1 steals and 4.9 rebounds as a senior, leading the Crabbers to a 25-3 record capped with a win over Pikesville for the Class 1A state championship. After graduation, the four-year starter and three-time All-State selection, who scored 2,152 points in his Crisfield career, headed to Hargrave to improve his SAT score and refine his game.
At another college, Collins’ post-grad season – a year in which he averaged 15.6 points and eight assists – might have given him a leg up for playing time. But at Maryland, Collins joined a loaded team from top to bottom that was almost maniacally obsessed with winning.
“From the time I stepped foot on campus,” Collins said he knew the Terps were a talented team possessed. “We walked into Cole Field House and you could tell that guys were disappointed from the year before, when they lost to Duke in the Final Four when they were up by . They just had that championship attitude from the beginning – playing pickup ball in the preseason, workouts. Everyone had each other’s back. We were a full team.”
From the start of that 2001-02 season, Collins assumed the role of scout-team point guard and supportive bench player. While it was “very difficult” for Collins to ride the bench for the first time in his life, he admits now that he “wasn’t ready to play at that level” early in his freshman year. By midseason, Collins felt that he was “ready to compete,” but the Terps and their guards were rolling. Collins didn’t see action in UM’s 64-52 win over Indiana, but he was “most definitely happy” just to be a part of Maryland history.
Collins, who scored the final 3-pointer at Cole Field House, finished his freshman season averaging 2.2 points in 22 games. As a sophomore, Collins remained behind Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas on the depth chart, and finished the year averaging just 5.7 minutes in 19 games. The start to his junior year wasn’t much better, with Collins averaging 8.8 minutes before deciding to transfer after the sixth game of the season.
“It was never anything personal as far as me not getting along with anybody,” Collins said. “It was more so [that] I was determined to continue my basketball career after college. So I made a decision along with my family and my mentor. We just came to the decision. It was very stressful.”
Collins hung around College Park through the rest of the school year. Maryland assistant coach Jimmy Patsos told him to hold off on picking a new school. Collins obliged, and quickly followed Patsos to Baltimore after Loyola named the long-time Terps assistant its new coach. After a redshirt season, Collins was finally able to showcase his “abilities to people who doubted me.”