Amira “Mimi” Collins gave Tennessee assistant coach Jolette Law the best birthday present Wednesday – a commitment to play basketball for the Lady Vols.
“Today is coach Law’s birthday,” Collins said Wednesday evening in a phone interview with Inside Tennessee. “I thought it would be special and nice to commit on her birthday, a little birthday gift.”
Collins, a 6-3 versatile post in the Class of 2018, has long leaned orange. She made it official Wednesday with a phone call to the Head Coach Holly Warlick and the Tennessee staff.
“They were screaming on the phone,” Collins said. “Everyone was so excited, especially coach Law was excited. She said this was like the greatest birthday present ever. Everyone was thrilled and welcomed me in and said they were glad I was part of the family.”
Shortly after the phone call to Knoxville, Collins posted her announcement on Twitter.
Collins already had taken two unofficial visits to Tennessee – and will take her official visit in the fall of 2017 – and had been recruited by the Lady Vols since she was an eighth-grader.
“The feeling of it, as soon as I walked into Tennessee, it was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Collins said of her first visit. “I was so glad to be here. I have always wanted to be at Tennessee, and I like the style of play and what they’ve done as a whole. It’s just a great thing. They are great coaches and great teammates, and it’s just a great thing to be a part of.”
Lady Vols recruiting hasn’t slowed down a bit. Just three weeks after signing the top class in the country in 2017, Tennessee added its first commit from 2018 in Collins.
Collins considered multiple schools, including Maryland, UCLA, Louisville Georgia Tech, Penn State and West Virginia. Law, who was the lead recruiter for Collins, and Tennessee had been scouting Collins throughout high school, and the Lady Vols’ interest never waned.
Collins, who is originally from Slidell, Louisiana, plays for powerhouse Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Her father, Tank Collins, works for the Department of Defense, and the family lives in White Plains, Maryland.
Her father, Derwin Collins, got the nickname of Tank after running through a glass door when he was about 10 years old and emerging unscathed.
“I was pestering my brother and his older friends,” Tank Collins said. “I had just come in from the backyard playing and bothering them some more. I had left it open and apparently somebody closed it. After aggravating them, I took off running, turned back to see where they were and the next thing I know I hit the glass and kept running.”
While Mimi Collins won’t be running through glass doors, she does have two older brothers, Milan, who plays football for Maryland, and Devin, who played basketball in high school and junior college, so she has learned to hold her own.
“Her two older brothers don’t cut her any slack,” Tank Collins said. “She has been around competitive sports her whole life, and they didn’t cut her any breaks.”
Collins tried multiple sports before basketball, including soccer, track, volleyball, tennis and dancing. She was a soccer goalie – as was former Lady Vol center Kelley Cain, who said she developed good hands after the experience. But Collins shifted sports quickly before settling on basketball.
“My last choice was basketball, and I fell in love with it,” she said.
Collins was at Tennessee’s camp last summer and has played on a camp team with 2017 signee Rennia Davis, a dynamic wing from Jacksonville, Florida. Collins also is familiar with several players on Tennessee’s current team.
“I’ve played against those girls in AAU, and they are very talented,” Collins said. “I am grateful to be a part of it. Their style of play fits me because I am very versatile, and I like to run the floor and do anything I can to help my team. Holly likes a person that competes, and I like to compete, so it’s just a perfect fit.”
The Lady Vols have had a lot of success with developing post players, with Mercedes Russell being the next to enter the WNBA either after this season or in 2018 if she opts for a fifth year in college.
“Player development, yes, it always factors in,” Collins said. “Their players develop. I saw it in summer camp – what they showed and how they showed it. It was a great thing. I enjoyed it. Rennia and I were teammates in a camp.”
Collins, who intends to major in psychology in college, said she is certain of her decision.
“Yes ma’am, I am,” Collins said.
While Collins is firm with her decision, she won’t put any undue pressure on other players in the Class of 2018 to join her in Knoxville.
“Everybody has to make their own choice; everybody has to fall in love with what they want,” Collins said. “But I don’t mind talking about how great Tennessee is because that is how I feel. I don’t mind doing that at all because I feel like Tennessee is great. But everybody is destined to do their own thing and fall in love with their college decision, because they have to be there for four years.
“I have made my decision, and I am happy with my decision.”
Her parents, Tank and Bonita Collins, also are at peace with their daughter’s decision. The family can now focus on her final two years of high school without the additional pressure of trying to select a college. The Collins only have one visit to schedule next fall – and that will be to Tennessee.
“They’ve been after her since she was an eighth-grader,” Tank Collins said. “She is happy, and so are we. It gives us a chance to focus on what is important, which are the academics and just enjoying being a teenager. We can take a deep breath.”