2016 center Zach Collins wants to get his decision made soon. So, he took his first official visit before his junior basketball season has even concluded last Wednesday to California, and, well, “During the game, I tried to picture myself out there, playing and listening to the coaches. I liked what I saw and I heard,” Collins said.
Wednesday was Collins’s second visit to Berkeley – the first coming when he and his Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman team faced another Cal target 2015 five-star prospect Ivan Rabb -- and his Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd squad on Nov. 29.
“I got to go inside the stadium this time, I got to see what kind of dorms and apartments that the players stay in. That was really cool. And, obviously, the food was great. All the food I got to eat was really good,” said the 6-foot-10, 215-pounder. “I got to see the stadium, I got to watch them practice, and have a shoot-around, so that was really good to see.”
What really knocked Collins’s socks off, he said, was the coaching staff, from head man Cuonzo Martin to assistants Yanni Hufnagel, Jon Harris and Tracy Webster. Martin and Hufnagel are in Springfield, Mass., to watch Collins – who called BearTerritory from his hotel there to talk about the visit –and Rabb this weekend.
“I just really, really gained a lot of respect for them, and I liked the coaches a lot,” Collins said. “I think they’re all class guys, and they all know how to coach the right way, and they try to preach to the players how to play the right way, and that was huge for me. Really, it was the coaches who stood out, and I was really impressed by how they treated people and how they treated their players.”
Though center David Kravish only took six shots, Collins was impressed by how the Bears used their senior big man, and said he could see himself playing for the Bears.
“I could. They just know how to take advantage of good things, and obviously, Kravish is a stud,” Collins said. “I don’t think he got as many touches as he would like against Stanford, but I saw the guards, and they were always going downcourt, looking for him every time. Even if they didn’t make the pass, they were still thinking about him. I thought that was big.”
The fact that school hasn’t yet begun its spring term was actually a plus for Collins, who said that not having crowds flooding the school helped him focus on the official visit during the day on Wednesday. The fact that the staff took the time to take Collins and his family around, even on a day when they’d be facing rival Stanford, was also a plus.
“I was really impressed with the coaches and they way they treated us,” Collins said. “They completely pampered us, from the hotel to the food to just hanging out with us all day on game day, which I know is hard, because it was a big game for them, and they had to focus up with their guys. They took care of us, and that was a big thing for me. They definitely set the bar high.”
Collins has three more official visits coming up: Gonzaga, New Mexico and San Diego State.
“The two things I like to boil it down to are the relationship with the coaches and the staff, and fit -- as far as how they play, what their system is like, if I would fit in their system and if I got along with players and coaches, during the game, after the game, at halftime, what they do in the offseason – stuff like that, basketball-wise and relationship-wise,” Collins said.
Collins spent a lot of time with Georgetown transfer Stephen Domingo, his official visit host.
“He said it was his home, and that’s what it boiled down to,” Collins said of his talks with Domingo on the topic of why he transferred to Cal. “I think he knew what coaches were coming in, and he fell in love with the coaches, just how I did. I think that was what did it for him. He said he grew up in San Francisco, so being close to home, I think that was a big deal for him. I didn’t ask him much about why he chose to go there. It was more about what he thought of the campus and what he thought of the system once he got there.”
Those talks helped Collins form his picture of what it would be like to play for Martin and his staff.
“It did,” Collins said. “He’s obviously a different position, but student-wise and not basketball-wise, I could picture myself doing good things there, sitting in with all the players. The whole campus, I liked the feel and the vibe of the campus.”
With a GPA between 3.5 and 3.7, Collins doesn’t know what he wants to major in just yet, but Cal’s academic profile was, like the coaching staff, very impressive.
“They pretty much told me that if I come to Cal-Berkeley, it’s going to be a lot about school,” Collins said. “They said that school is pretty tough at Cal, but at the end of the day, if you graduate with a degree from Cal, the possibilities for a thriving career are endless. That’s what they kept telling me. I learned a lot about how each player goes about their day and their studies. I was just really impressed with the whole thing at Cal.”