Collison: "I Want to Win a Championship"

Sophomore point guard Darren Collison talked in a teleconference Wednesday about the reasons he chose to return to UCLA and not put his name in the NBA Draft this season. He kept repeating that it was about UCLA, and that his main motivation was to bring another banner to Westwood...

How hard was it to make this decision and what went into it?

"It wasn't too difficult to make the decision. I didn't put much thought process into it. Playing at this school is really enjoyable. My goal is always to win a championship, and I didn't succeed at it in my sophomore year so I'm ready to take a knock at it in my junior year."

Did you come close to testing the waters like Arron Afflalo did last year?

"It wasn't really that close. I knew a lot of people are interested in me, when I spoke to my parents about it. We wanted to stay more in a safe spot. We always thought UCLA basketball when it came to that."

So you thought very little about leaving, if at all?

"Very little. For the most part, I wanted to win a championship. That's what I told my parents. I'm dedicated to winning games for UCLA. I still have a lot more improvement to make for the next level. The NBA isn't going anywhere. I'm just satisfied with where I'm at right now."

Do you have any sense of where you might have been picked?

"I have no idea. I heard a lot, but it was all relative to my decision. It was so much about me, how I was going to improve, and I was looking forward to improving for my teammates for next year at UCLA."

Did you think not about where you would have been picked but where other players might have been picked and how coming back another year could improve your draft status next year?

"Other people's decision had nothing to do with my decision. I really didn't know much about where I'd be. I didn't look into it that much. My whole idea is to improve as a player. Like I said, I was trying to win a championship last year, and I didn't succeed. So this year I'm trying to improve as a player, individually, to get to that next step."

How much does the chance to play with Kevin Love next year influence your decision to stay?

'It's just not Kevin Love, but all the teammates I had last year. They're a great group of guys that I liked to be around. I enjoyed last year's season. It was fun being around them. It was a great experience. With Kevin and Chace Stanback as additions, you enjoy playing with those guys, because they have good personalities."

What did you and Coach Howland talk about when you met about the NBA Draft?

"We talked about everything, like we do in every off-season, how to improve as a player. He's always going to strive to make be better as an individual player. He's always going to tell me things that I need to improve on. My goal is to meet that expectation, everything he throws out at me. I enjoy trying to get better. I love getting better. It's fun, especially when coach throws out a challenge to me. Being a junior, it's going to be very exciting to play with my teammates again."

But about the NBA part of it, what did he say that stuck in your mind?

"Not really anything. We hardly even talked about that. It was mostly about me improving as a player."

Anything you specifically want to see yourself get better at as a player?

"I definitely want to try to get stronger, of course. I want to get smarter at the game. Being a point guard, there are so many things I have to know on the court, orchestrating the other players, what position to go, and how to control the game. I want to improve on how to control the game. Those three things in particular."

Was it hard to block out the other things you hear about being a first-round draft pick?

"Everybody's goal as a college basketball player is to go to the NBA. It's every kid's dream. Anytime somebody says that it can be flattering at times, but I think the most important thing is that you have to understand how you can get to that point, get to that next level. For me it was about getting better at UCLA, staying at UCLA and improving as a player. Like I said, the NBA isn't going anywhere.  At UCLA, you can only be here for a certain amount of time, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Did you feel responsible that you'd be leaving UCLA short-handed, without a true point guard behind you right now?

"We have a great staff. Regardless if I left or stayed, they're going to find kids to come in before me, after me. They have a good recruiting staff. They're going to get players in. I wasn't really concerned with it."

Who was invovled in helping you make this decision?

"My parents, and Ben Howland. Those are the only three people I need to be involved in this decision."

Was this decision a financial decision?  God forbid you get hurt, but was it a matter of passing up some money this year hoping you'd go higher next year? Or how much did wanting to be at UCLA enter into it?

"I wasn't really concerned about passing up any kind of money, regardless if I get hurt or not. My decision is the best decision for me. It's the right decision. So if I did get hurt it's still the right decision. Like I said, playing at UCLA, we have a great supporting cast. I couldn't be in a better place. Like I said, the NBA isn't going anywhere. UCLA, I can only be here for a little bit of time."

How close are you to graduating?

"I'm on track for four years."

Since your mom just quit her job, do you expect her to help sort through things as the season goes on?

"My mom's situation didn't have anything to do with my decision. What she did with her job was on her. She wanted to do that to benefit her, in seeing me. She wanted to make it to more of my games. It had nothing to do with my decision."

Could she be your agent next year?

"I wouldn't know."

Did you talk to Arron at all?

"No, I haven't spoken to Arron at all."

Was this season some sort of vindication for you? People questioning how UCLA was going to be with Jordan Farmar having left. To have people talking about you being a possible draft pick in the NBA.

"I always had confidence with my game, regardless of what people thought, regardless of whether I have a chance to go to the NBA. I always had confidence within myself. That's the most important thing. A player playing a long time, the only person you should have confidence in is you, because you're going to be the one controlling your future."

Coach said it might have been hard going into the NBA as a late first-round pick because you might not plays as much next year and you need to play. Would it have been hard to spend a lot of time on the bench?

"I hardly even thought about it. He is right on that, but that isn't why I made my decision. My decision wasn't based on whether I should go to the NBA or not, it was based on whether I could win a championship for UCLA."

Did watching Jordan in the NBA play any part in this?

"Not at all. This is my decision, and it has to do with me. Anyone else's decision, it has to do with them."

You're sounding like it wasn't a very difficult decision, but here we are talking about it a couple of days before the draft deadline. Why did you wait so long to let anyone know?

"Like I said, you have to give it that thought. It wasn't too hard of a decision, but then again it was there. But it wasn't a hard decision. I had plenty of days to think about it, and I know my decision was the right decision. I talked to my parents about it many times, and we just wanted to make sure we made the right decision, and I think this is the right decision."

Are you glad Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is coming back, too?

"Definitely glad he's coming back. Any player like that who's coming back you have to be happy about."

You said that your concern was winning a championship for UCLA. Now, with who you have back, and Kevin Love, do you think you'll be favored to win the championship next year?

"I wouldn't say we'd be favored to win the championship, but we're part of the elite. Whenever you're elite you always have a good chance to win a championship. My last two years we were one of the elite teams with a chance to win a championship. This year we'll go at it again, and hopefully get it."

What will your off-season workout be like?

"It will be the same thing. Improving, getting better. Working out, lifting. Nothing different."

Where do you work out?

"Either by my area at home or on campus."

How much would you like to weigh next season?

"Between 165 and 170."

How much would you like to lift by next season?

"With my shoulder injury, it's really hard to know right now."

How much did you weigh at the end of the season?

"Between 155 and 160."

Coach Howland talked like next year will be your last year. Will that be hard?

"It's not going to be hard. Whatever decision I make I know will be the best decision for me. I have good people around me. So whatever decision I make will be a straight-forward decision. It's not going to be a hard decision."

Is there a chance you'll come back for your senior year?

"That possibility is always going to be there, if you want to come back for your senior year. Right now I'm enjoying UCLA, being on campus and just being with my teammates and stuff. So there's a chance."

Does it mean something to you that your mom wants to come to more of your games in your last season?

"I wouldn't say it's my last season. And I think she's just trying to have more time for me. That's a family decision. I had nothing to do with that. She wants to be there for her son."

If we had to say you weren't going pro because...would it be that you weren't going to get picked high enough, wanted another year to mature and get older, or is it about UCLA?

"Before I came here it was about UCLA, and now that I'm here it's still about UCLA. The decision had a lot to do with me wanting to win a championship. I have to stick to my word. I said I wanted to win a championship."

How would you like to see the rest of the team improve?

"I'd like to see major improvement by everybody. I thought that was one thing we did good last year, we improved as a team and individually. If we all can get better, and then we can all add our parts together and play our roles when it comes to game time."

What do think of your new assistant coach, Scott Duncan?

"I like Coach Duncan. He has a real cool personality."

Bruin Report Online Top Stories