The worst thing for an actor in Hollywood is to be typecast.
Wake Forest sophomore John Collins has spent the last couple months trying to avoid the same fate by convincing NBA teams he’s more than just a 6-10, 225-pound post player.
In today’s stretch-the-floor, three-point crazed NBA, being defined as a throwback power forward who camps himself out in the lane is a sin.
“What I try to show in every work out is my versatility – how versatile I am and can possibly be,” Collins said last week after a workout with the Detroit Pistons.
“I had a specific role at Wake, and I did that role specifically. I think teams want to see what else I can do... more than just staying in the post up all the time. It’s stepping out and expanding my range, shooting the three, handling a little bit, showing my passing lanes.”
If Collins, who took and missed his one and only three-point shot last season, proved to the Miami Heat during his private workout on Wednesday he can be a more versatile player than the one advertised on scouting reports, the 19-year-old former West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman High School standout could become a steal for Pat Riley with the 14th selection in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Tabbed a three-star recruit and the 230th best player in the 2015 recruiting class by 247Sports, Collins took a major step forward in his development last season at Wake Forest under coach Danny Manning, one of the best college power forwards ever and a two-time All-Star with the Los Angeles Clippers.
In 33 games last season at Wake, Collins averaged 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and shot 62.4 percent from the field en route to being named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Most Improved Player and the runner-up for the league’s player of the year award to North Carolina’s Justin Jackson.
On most nights last season, Collins faced double and triple teams and yet continued to produce.
Most impressively, perhaps, Collins led the nation in Player Efficiency Rating, a stat derived by ESPN’s John Hollinger to measure a player’s overall statistical impact on a per-minute scale by also taking into account pace.
A PER of 15.0 is the league average. Last season, Heat center Hassan Whiteside, the league’s rebounding champion, had a PER of 22.68, which ranked 26th overall. Russell Westbrook, who set an NBA record for triple-doubles in a season, led the league with a PER of 30.70.
Collins’ PER of 35.93 was actually better than those of All-Star big men Anthony Davis (35.13) and DeMarcus Cousins (34.18) when they led college basketball in the respective category in 2012 and 2010.
“The biggest things I’ve taken from [coach Manning] are positioning and easy buckets,” Collins said last month at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
“He always tells me I don’t necessarily have to have the ball to score. I can set a screen real hard and get easy buckets, run the floor real hard. He’s also teaching me how to use my body because I was a little bit foul plagued my freshman year. For me to come back my second year and stay out of foul trouble offensively and defensively was great.”
If the Heat decide to draft Collins it would also be a nice homecoming story. Before he chose to play for the Demon Deacons over the hometown Miami Hurricanes, Collins grew up going to Heat games during the Big Three era.
His mother, Lyria, a former sergeant in the Air Force, told the Palm Beach Post her son still has Dwyane Wade’s Heat jerseys hanging in his closet at home.
“Yeah, I was a big Heat fan,” Collins said last month at the combine. “That Big Three era was the era I got to witness fully and got to see play out. It was big for me to watch LeBron [James] and D-Wade and [Chris Bosh] take over South Beach.”
Now, Palm Beach County’s High School Player of the Year in 2015 according to the Sun-Sentinel and Post could be ready to do the same.
As it stands, NBA Draft Express has the Heat taking Collins, USA Today has him going a pick later to the Portland Trail Blazers and ESPN has him going 16th to the Chicago Bulls. So, he’s very much in play for the Heat with the 14th pick.
“That would be really cool,” Collins replied last month when asked what it would mean to him to play for the Heat. “Being a big fan of Pat’s, that would be really cool to meet with him.”
Height: 6-9 1/2
Wingspan: 6-11 1/4