Upsetting Sherron Collins used to not be such a bad thing for an opponent to do. Talk trash, get physical with him, disrespect him in any way, do any of those sorts of things and Collins’ game would get derailed. He’d get caught up in the moment and stray away from doing what he does best. He’d make it a personal vendetta. It would no longer be Crane vs. Team X. It’d be Sherron Collins vs. Team X. He and his team suffered because of it.
Opponents aren’t so lucky anymore.
Collins has learned his lesson. He’s matured. Things have changed.
Sure, he still talks as much junk as anyone in Chicago. And, yes, he still gets fired up when an opposing player delivers a hard foul or tries to test whether he really is the state’s top point guard.
But Collins no longer takes that emotion out on himself or the Cougars. He’s learned to channel it and make his opponent pay the price. It’s one of the main reasons Collins led Crane downstate last season and is now considered among the top point guards in the nation.
“I had an attitude problem when I first came, but my coach worked with me,” Collins said. “I’d get frustrated and I’d take myself out of the game as well as my team. Really, words can get under my skin real easy. Me and my coach have been working on that. Let people think whatever, keep my cool, play the game and everything will come through.”
Farragut guard Corey Hughes recently got Collins mad in a spring league game. Hughes, like Collins, loves to chat on the court and doesn’t back down from challenges.
It made for an interesting battle.
Each time down the court toward the end of the game, the two Chicago Public League guards talked with their mouths and their games.
Hughes came out the victor with a buzzer beater, but he left with a respect for Collins.
“He’s going to be competitive,” Hughes said. “He’s going to play hard. He told me, ‘I respect Chris (Singletary). I don’t respect you.’ That’s fun. It gets me more pumped.”
When Westinghouse’s backcourt recently tested Collins at the Garfield Park spring league, Collins showed why it’s not a good idea to get him angry.
During one trip down the floor, Collins crossed over his defender and was accidentally scratched on his forehead by the opponent’s nails. No whistle was called. Blood dripped from the cut.
Collins left the game, went to the bathroom and returned to the floor not long after.
Already peeved, Collins then had to deal with one of Westinghouse’s guard talking trash.
It was on.
With a few inches on his opponent, Collins posted up, backed him down, spun and scored. As he ran back, he yelled, “All day. All day.” The next few trips down Collins either shook his defender with his quick handles or went back into the post, drawing a foul or scoring.
“You can’t coach his ability to raise his game to a second or third level when he’s challenged,” Crane coach Anthony Longstreet said. “He’s worked on being able to take over a game, but also have trust in his teammates. Eighty percent of him has changed. Before, he just took everything personal. It was a thing in where he blocked everything out. He’s more open-minded now. All that comes with maturity.”
Collins has learned to grow up quicker than most kids just because of the neighborhood he lives in on Chicago’s West Side. Temptations wait for him at every corner. Gangs, drugs, guns, they’re all there.
Collins knows better than to get caught up with the wrong people. He didn’t have to look any farther than his father, Steve Collins, to learn that lesson.
Steve played at South Shore High School and St. Joseph and was a top college prospect. Collins still goes back and looks at the all the letters his dad received. There are suitcases of them from coaches from around the nation.
“My dad could have made it, but he didn’t make the right decisions,” Collins said. “He pushed me real hard not to make the decisions he did. I learned to stay away from gangbanging. I stay away from all that. I always stay active.”
Basketball is not only Collins’ passion; it’s also what keeps him off the streets. He rarely is without a basketball in his hand.
Once he has that basketball, it’s nearly impossible to take it from him.
Collins walks the ball up court with a slow dribble. After calling the play and approaching his defender, the real fun begins. Dribble left, right, through the legs, around the back, through the legs, crossover, spin … layup. The basketball is like a puppet to Collins. He pulls the strings and it moves, but the ball never comes loose.
It can take an artist days to finish a masterpiece; blink and you may miss Collins’ work.
“He is at his best with the ball in his hands because he is a ballhandling wizard, is absolutely explosive going to the basket and virtually impossible to stop one-on-one,” said scouts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye.
Go back five years and that could be the same scouting report given to Will Bynum, now an NBA prospect.
There has been no escaping Bynum comparisons for Collins. Both played at Crane. Both are under 6-foot. Both can score. Both can dribble.
Longstreet has coached both and admits the similarities are there, but there are also differences.
“They both can get to the rack anytime they want to and when they get there, they can hang in the air, take the hit and finish it off,” Longstreet said. “They can elevate their games when people make them mad.
“At this point, Will was more explosive and more flashy with his ballhanding. On the flip side, Sherron has shown he’s a better passer.”
Collins doesn’t mind his name being thrown around with Bynum’s. Bynum was an elite player at the high school and college level. Scouts have questioned Bynum because of his size, but with performances like his 35-point explosion against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament, he proved size does not matter.
Aside from respecting his skills, Collins looks to Bynum as a mentor. When Bynum was back home in Chicago last summer from Georgia Tech, he allowed Collins to tag along and work out with him.
The lessons were invaluable to Collins.
“He’s like a big brother,” Collins said. “He helps me as far as schoolwork and telling me how important it is. How things are going to be different than in high school. He talks to me about all that and helps me with my game.
“He taught me to go out there with an attitude that I need to do what I want to do. Go out and let the game come to me. I don’t think about what I’m going to do. It just comes. When the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ come, my adrenaline gets going.”
That adrenaline was in full force when Collins and Crane met up against Jon Scheyer and Glenbrook North at the University of Illinois team camp at Moody Bible Institute on June 21. It was the first match-up between the two Class of 2006 stars.
Collins wanted the game bad. He was so jacked that he air-balled two 3-pointers early on. Once he settled down, though, the game became a classic with Scheyer and Collins exchanging baskets.
Collins scored 11 of his team’s 13 first-half points and finished with a game-high 24. Scheyer was cold early, but hit two 3-pointers in the final two minutes to lead the Spartans to a 38-35 win. He finished with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.
“Sherron and I were just going back and forth,” Scheyer said. “You can’t say enough about him. He’s a great player. I have as much respect for his game as he does for mine.”
Collins earned a lot of statewide respect last year by leading Crane downstate for the first time in 30 years. Without the team’s second leading scorer, Tyrone Kent, due to injury, Collins kept the Cougars in their quarterfinal meeting with Carbondale with a game-high 24 points, but the Terriers prevailed.
He averaged 12.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists on the season.
A month later, Collins broke out on to the national scene at the Boo Williams Invitational in Virginia. He is now considered among the top three point guards in the nation.
With that rise in stock, high-major colleges have been calling. To each one, Longstreet says the same thing, “Right now, you guys have to be patient, wait until the fall.”*
Longstreet understands Collins’ recruiting will develop into a circus. The two have agreed to waituntil the fall to open that tent, though.
They have another priority at this point — improving Collins’ grades and getting him qualified.
“One of the reasons he doesn’t play every week in these AAU tournaments is so that happens,” Longstreet said. “He will qualify. That’s basically my purpose to push off the recruiting process until after the summer.
“He needs to work on being a good student, his study habits. Once that’s over with, we’ll work on the recruiting stuff. After the summer, we’ll sit down and look at the situation.”
Now that Collins has been challenged in the classroom, he plans to deal with it just as he does his basketball competitors.
Remember getting Collins mad is no longer a good thing.
“A lot of people come at me because I’m one of the top ranked players,” Collins said. “It’s like you got a belt to protect every time you play.”
So far, he’s still the champ.