There have been Sherron Collins sightings the past several weeks: at Kansas’ Late Night in the Phog in Lawrence as well as the Philadelphia 76ers-Miami Heat NBA exhibition game and then the KU-Missouri hurricane relief contest at Sprint Center.
Collins, a 5-foot-11 former Jayhawk point guard, has also been spotted in KU’s hoops practice facility and Allen Fieldhouse not only during afternoon hours but between midnight and 2 a.m.
All those appearances have made some wonder — correctly — if the 30-year-old Collins has switched his mailing address from his hometown of Chicago to Lawrence, where he starred for the Jayhawks from 2006 to 2010.
“We moved here a couple months ago. Chicago was getting too dangerous. The school system wasn’t all that strong,” Collins explained in an hour-long interview with The Star on Wednesday at Six Mile Chop House in west Lawrence.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Collins by “we” was referring to himself, girlfriend Jazzmine, 7-year-old daughter Sharee and 8-month old son, Sheron III. In August, they hitched a trailer full of belongings to a friend’s vehicle and happily made the eight-hour drive to Collins’ college home.
“We’ve got friends who started getting shot and killed,” Collins said. “Little kids were getting harmed. It was time to go,” Collins added of departing a crime-ridden neighborhood in the Windy City. “I didn’t want my kids to be raised how I had to be raised and go through the stuff I had to go through.”
Collins rented an apartment for the family in Lawrence rather than buying a house so it’d be easier for the four to leave town as quickly as they arrived if necessary.
“We didn’t know if we’d like it. I didn’t want my girl to say, ‘I don’t want to be here,’’’ Collins said. “She loves it. She wants to go to work. She’s got 10 job interviews (coming up). She’s like, ‘It was so hard to find jobs in Chicago. There’s opportunity here.’
“My daughter loves her school. She loves her Boys and Girls Club after-school program. We didn’t have an after-school program for her in Chicago. Everybody loves it,” Collins exclaimed.
That’s a relief for Collins, who has been conditioning twice a day in preparation for the Jan. 1 start of the inaugural season of the North American Premier Basketball League.
Collins — it will be announced soon — will be playing for the Kansas City entry in the league. He hopes to recruit former KU players Travis Releford, Kevin Young and perhaps others to join him in what will be a 32-game regular-season schedule.
Collins has played for a handful of pro teams outside the U.S., since a 20-game stint with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats in 2010-11.
“I am going to play (in Kansas City), basically like a tune-up. I’m going to try to go to the G-League eventually,” said Collins. He said he’s “about three weeks away” from attaining prime playing weight, which for him is about 205 pounds.
Collins has mainly been working out on his own, but has received counsel from KU’s current coaches as well as former KU assistant Joe Dooley, head coach at Florida Gulf Coast.
“A lot of people get hung up on the NBA. I was blessed to make it there and play a year, but if I never get back I won’t be heartbroken or give up,” Collins said.
“Can I make a living overseas? Definitely. Can I still play at a high level? Definitely. If something else happens from this then it’s a blessing,” he added of playing for the yet-unnamed KC team that will be coached by former Jayhawk forward Calvin Thompson. “If I have to stay overseas, I’m fine with that.”
Collins said he received a pep talk of sorts from some NBA players who approached him before the Sixers-Heat game on Oct. 13 in KC.
“Maybe 15 guys on the court, they were talking to me like, ‘Why does everybody say you were the toughest guard they ever played against?’ I said, ‘I used to dominate their (behind), that’s why,’” Collins said with a smile.
“No disrespect to anybody, but a lot of guys they couldn’t guard me on any level and they tried.”
Collins, who has been held back by injuries and resulting weight gains, said he’s been so frustrated by being out of basketball, “to be honest, sometimes I can’t watch NBA games.”
Collins said he hopes to be able to scrimmage at practice with the KU players in the near future.
He’s already familiar with all of the current Jayhawks. In fact, it was Collins who jumped out of his seat in the first half of Sunday’s KU exhibition game while studying the play of KU point guard Devonté Graham. Graham hit four threes and scored 14 of KU’s first 21 points. Graham ended up with 17 points in the first half and 25 for the game, which was a 93-87 Jayhawk victory over MU.
In Sherron’s eyes, Graham could have finished with even more points.
“Putting me there is like a gift and a curse,” Collins said of sitting at court level. “I may yell something that’s helpful, then I may yell something that’s real harsh. They (players) know I mean good from it.”
What was he saying to Graham, who also grabbed 10 rebounds and dished five assists versus the Michael Porter-led Tigers?
“I kept telling him he was running a fever. I was like, ‘You are being too nice. When I’m running a fever I need everything to go through me. If I pass it’s for you (teammate) to take a shot when it’s time.’ I told him he should be taking every shot right now.”
Collins continued: “Sometimes when they catch it you can tell they aren’t ready to shoot. I’m like, ‘Shoot it.’ He (Graham) shoots, boom he turns around, I’m like, ‘See?’
“He was hot, though. I’m happy for Devonté. I go in the practice gym late at night and he’s in there. I’ve seen (Lagerald) Vick and (Malik) Newman in there, too, other guys. Devonté is in there a lot. I tell him, ‘You got to wait your turn, now it’s your turn. Now they go as you go.’ I tell him that every time. I say, ‘There’s going to be pressure. You are gonna have to deal with it.’’’
Graham appreciates the advice.
“Sherron talks to me all the time, on the court, off the court,” Graham said, noting former KU staff member Aaron Miles and former Jayhawk guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson have been helpful as well. “The (common theme) is, ‘Just go out and feel like it’s your senior year.’’’
Well-liked by Jayhawks present and past, Collins received a batch of texts and calls on Wednesday when it was announced he and 2008 NCAA title teammate Cole Aldrich would have their jerseys hung in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse at halftime of a pair of games this February.
He heard from Mario Chalmers and Taylor and of course Brady Morningstar, a former teammate Collins refers to as “my brother. I just might bring Brady on the court with me (for ceremony on Feb. 19 versus Oklahoma).”
Collins remains popular with KU’s coaches, too, and not just because he seems to be acquainted with everybody in Chicago, a hotbed for KU recruiting.
Collins, a former Chicago Crane High standout — he’s also had his jersey number retired at Crane — knows current KU sophomore Charlie Moore and high school junior Markese Jacobs, who has already committed to KU. Moore attended Chicago’s Morgan Park High, then went to Cal for a year before transferring to KU; Jacobs attends Chicago’s Uplift Community High.
“It’s like I’ve already got a connection with these guys. They all want to look up to you,” Collins said. “I never persuaded or tried to make them come here. They all had different schools they could have gone to. I tell ’em, ‘If you want to get coached by one of the best coaches in America, if you want to play in nationally televised games and with and against the best talent, it won’t be a bad thing,’” he added of attending KU.
“I tell them they have to be serious in the classroom. I don’t say, ‘You are gonna be a star.’ I don’t tell them it’ll be given to you. I tell ’em, ‘You’ve got to work for it.’ I’m just being honest,” Collins said.
Former KU forward David Magley, the president and chief operating officer of the North American Premier League, said he’s looking forward to having Collins as the face of the KC team.
Magley was commissioner of NBL Canada when Collins played for the Windsor Express in 2016.
“Coming through Kansas City, playing before KU people who love him, will do nothing but help him I think,” Magley said of Collins’ hoops career.
“He has that Bill Self quality of toughness, and also has that killer smile,” Magley added about Collins. “You see that and think he’s a good guy, underneath you know he’d cut your heart out if he could (to win). KU guys like Sherron, Kevin Young and Travis Releford (who all played in Canada) … they carry themselves well (but) underneath is a fiery burning passion for the game.
“I think Sherron may have some good years ahead. It’s been injuries that have held him back. If he can come in good shape, ready to play and can stay healthy, this is a great chance to get some good work put on his basketball resume.”