Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, whose names are often mentioned in the same breath — at least the same sentence — for their contributions on the same Kansas basketball teams, will have their jerseys retired in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse during a three-day span in mid-February.
“This is really cool. Sherron and I have been friends and are kind of tied to each other like Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich in a way. You think of one and you think of the other,” eight-year NBA veteran center Aldrich told The Star on Wednesday in a phone conversation from Detroit, where his Minnesota Timberwolves were preparing to play the Pistons.
Aldrich was referring to KU coach Bill Self announcing Wednesday that the 28-year-old Aldrich would have his jersey retired at halftime of the KU-West Virginia game on Feb. 17 and 30-year-old Collins at halftime of the KU-Oklahoma game on the 19th.
“It’s a huge honor to share the moment with him,” Aldrich added of Collins.
Collins shared the same sentiment with The Star during an interview Wednesday at lunch.
“I feel if they ever are going to do two together it should be me and Cole just because our last two years (2008-09 and 09-10 after winning the national title in 07-08) we anchored the team together,” Collins said.
He revealed some personal breaking news on Wednesday, indicating he had moved to Lawrence with his girlfriend and two children and is planning on playing for Kansas City’s new professional team in the North American Premier Basketball League on Jan. 1.
“I wouldn’t do it with anybody else but Cole. I think we should go down not as the best duo but absolutely one of the best duos here,” Collins said of his jersey retirement.
Collins said Aldrich was the type of player a point guard could really appreciate.
“Cole made my life easy on the defensive end,” two-time first-team All-Big 12 and 2010 consensus first-team All-American Collins said of Aldrich, Academic All-American of the year and consensus second-team All-American in 2010. Aldrich also was a two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year and two-time All-Big 12 first-team honoree.
“Coach Self wanted to pressure so hard. When you pressure, sometimes you get beat. There would be games Cole would tell me, ‘You’ve got to work so hard on offense so don’t work as hard on defense. Just send ’em to me.’ I’d get on one side of the player and basically dare him. He would go. I’d look and see Cole and I’d just stop. If Cole didn’t block it, he’d definitely change the shot.
“There were a couple times I got him in foul trouble. He never complained. He’d always say, ‘My fault.’ We were two different dudes, two different personalities. The way we jelled was crazy.”
Both Collins and Aldrich knew the honor was coming — Self had allowed them to pick the games most convenient for them to be recognized in Allen Fieldhouse — but they didn’t know the news would be released to the public Wednesday.
“This is all from today. The texts keep coming,” Collins said, showing The Star a stream of texts as well as Twitter messages from the likes of former teammates Mario Chalmers and Tyshawn Taylor.
“My girlfriend is sitting there today saying, ‘What’s going on with your phone?’ She said, ‘Have you seen what’s on Twitter?’ I said no, then I went there and saw KU announced it.
“Nothing beats this. This is surreal. Me coming from where I’m from (inner-city Chicago), I never saw myself getting a scholarship at Kansas let alone getting my jersey retired. I’ve still got goosebumps. I feel like a little kid in a candy store. The love, the texts from Tyshawn to Mario to my friends back home and family, it shows I have a lot of people behind me.”
Aldrich was equally surprised KU unveiled the news on Wednesday.
“I randomly saw it (on social media),” Aldrich said. “It’s an amazing day. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my name and number would be forever enshrined in the best school for basketball ever. You never think about that. You play the game because you love playing the game. The fans are there to support you.
“I’m kind of speechless. I look up in the rafters in Allen Fieldhouse and see Wilt (Chamberlain), Jo Jo (White), Paul (Pierce), Nick (Collison), Raef LaFrentz. All these names … man those are like the best players ever. For me it’s hard to see myself in that small little group of guys. It’s a huge honor to have my name up there because it’s such a small group of guys. It doesn’t happen often.”
The 6-foot-11 Aldrich has just started his eighth season in the NBA. The 5-11 Collins, who has played professionally off and on since leaving KU, is about to make a pro comeback with the team in KC.
Collins explained Wednesday to The Star he’d moved to Lawrence from Chicago with his girlfriend, Jazzmine; 7-year-old daughter Sharee and 8-month old son, Sherron III, two months ago, partly because their neighborhood in Chicago was becoming too dangerous to raise a family. He reported that they all love living in Lawrence and plan to make it their permanent home.
“Everything is great,” said Collins, who also has a 10-year-old son, Sherr’Mari, who lives in Las Vegas. “(I’m) working out twice a day and working really hard. I’m excited about what’s ahead.”
Self said he was elated to make the announcement about the KU duo.
“Both are very deserving,” Self told The Star. “Obviously we knew it would happen for a while. I’m excited for both of them. I know how much this place means to them. They are two of the best I’ve had a chance to coach, great leaders on and off the court. Both have contributed so much to our success.”
Also this season, KU will honor 120 years of Kansas basketball on Feb. 3 against Oklahoma State while bringing back players, coaches and staff from every era. The 1988 national championship team also will be recognized 30 years after its title run. KU will commemorate the 2008 national championship team on Feb. 17 against West Virginia, a date that also coincides with this year’s NBA All-Star break.