The 6-10, 242-pounder out of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., was named a team captain coming into his final season, perhaps a challenge from coach Herb Sendek to the unassuming Collins. The big man responded right out of the gates, establishing a career-high with 17 points in the season opener against New Orleans. In just 20 minutes, he drilled 6-of-7 shots from the floor and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line. He also knocked down 5-of-6 from the field against Campbell, scoring 11 points, and came through in a big way on Sunday against Manhattan. With the Wolfpack struggling in just about every aspect of the game and just holding off a tenacious Jaspers squad, Collins took a pass from Hodge at the top of the key and calmly drained a three-pointer, giving State an insurmountable 13-point lead with less than five minutes remaining.
"That was a big one," said Sendek. "Jordan is really playing solid basketball. He stepped up and was one of the few guys who was perfect at the foul line (4-for-4) tonight. That was a huge three for us."
In 27 minutes against Manhattan, Collins registered 13 points, four rebounds, one assists, two blocked shots and a steal – all without a turnover. In addition to hitting all four of his free throws, he also went 4-for-6 from the floor and dropped in his only three-point attempt.
The effort against the Jaspers continued Collins' strong early start. Through six games, the big man is averaging 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 20.7 minutes per contest. He is shooting an incredible 68.8 percent (22-32) from the field, 66.7 percent (4-6) from beyond the arc and a sparkling 83.3 percent (15-18) from the charity stripe. Collins also has added 10 assists to just four turnovers on the campaign.
However, Collins' offensive prowess has rarely been questioned; his production on the other end of the floor has been a reason why he averaged just 8.9 minutes per contest coming into this season. This year, he has been a force on the interior, swatting away 13 shots and notching six steals in the first six games. In the Wolfpack's biggest win this year, a hard-fought, 60-53 victory over Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Collins blocked six shots, the ninth-best single-game total in school history. The total also made him just the third player since 1995 to block that many shots in a contest for the Pack. He now ranks sixth in the conference in blocks per game.
Sendek noted that the shot-blocking and intimidation factor provided by Collins and rookies Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons could pay dividends for State this year.
"It remains to be seen over time how many shots we actually block," said Sendek. "I think we might have personnel that's more capable of doing that this year, but I don't know that we're going to be a team, over the long haul, that just has tremendous shot-blocking prowess. I think we have some guys who can block some shots, as do most teams in our league, but I don' t know that we'll be on end or the other of the spectrum of that.
"It certainly can be an advantage to get a shot block or alter a shot, but if you don't do it with a measure of intelligence, it can lead to abandoned rebounding position and second-shot opportunities for your opponent.
"Shot-blocking is something that is somewhat of a gift. Some guys have a knack and the size and other guys don't, and you try to play to your strengths. Ilian [Evtimov] isn't a shot-blocker, per se, but he's a very effective post defender because he uses his gifts and resources very well."
Collins has attributed his performance this year on the culmination of his steady maturation as a player and athlete.
"As a player, I've improved all-around since my freshman year," he said. "They've slimmed me down a lot, and I think I can do it all. I can shoot, dribble and pass."
His performances have helped lessen the blow of the departure of inside-out threat Marcus Melvin, NC State's top rebounder last year. While Collins' defensive effort has been a pleasant surprise, no one expected him to be able to step out beyond the three-point line and shoot with Melvin-like accuracy, either.
"I'm going to do some scoring and defend the post like Marcus did," Collins said in the preseason. "Sometimes I'll be able to step out and hit the three like Marcus did."
Collins' all-around game has made him a key cog in the Pack's attack thus far. He now has 22 field goals on the season – after knocking in just 24 in 23 games last year. The Wolfpack also moved to 14-2 when Collins has started in his career.
The challenge now is for the big man to carry his strong play into league competition, where he can help NC State finish on a high note in his final campaign.
"I just want to win an ACC championship," he said. "We've just got to keep working hard every day -- and hopefully it will happen for us."