Cool under pressure (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday December 19, 2007 3:16PM; Updated: Wednesday December 19, 2007 8:18PM
But Sherron found his way to Chicago Crane High, and under the tutelage of coach Anthony Longstreet and the help of his uncle Walter Harris, he survived academically and thrived on the basketball court.
"[When he got to high school], it was the first time I saw him bring a book bag to the club -- with actual books inside," Pottinger said.
Not everyone around Collins was able to avoid the ills of the neighborhood. While he was in high school, Sherron lost his friend Cedric Collins (no relation), who was shot in the head shortly after leaving Sherron's apartment. Stacey Harris says Sherron couldn't stand to be around the apartment and stayed with his uncle for two or three weeks after the incident.
Collins thrived on the court at Crane, winning two city championships and was named a McDonald's All-American as a senior. By then, basketball was his ticket, and the community knew it.
"The guys in gangs made sure Sherron and his older brother didn't get into gangs because they had this gift," Harris said.
Coming out of high school, there was some question as to whether he would qualify academically, but he did and Kansas was the beneficiary, winning out over Illinois. (Collins' brother, Steve, is playing in his second year at West Valley Junior College in Saratoga, Calif.)
The pressure wasn't completely lifted when he arrived at Kansas: Sherron battled weight problems as a freshman last season, but halfway through the year he started logging more minutes and was a key player on the Jayhawks' Elite Eight team. His 20 points, six rebounds and three assists help Kansas win the Big 12 tournament championship in overtime against Texas.
This season, Collins scored 22 points in the opener against Louisiana Monroe, but suffered a stress fracture in the second game against Missouri-Kansas City and missed the next six. The Georgia Tech game marked the third game since his return, but he's still shaking off the rust.
"He's not close to 100 percent," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He's a guy that can break a defense down. You saw glimpses of it [Tuesday]. He can get his shoulders past people and make the game easier for others. Two weeks from now, he'll be playing at a much higher level because his health will be better."
A healthy Collins could be the difference between Kansas reaching its ultimate goal: the Final Four, and being just another good-but-not-good-enough team.
"When we struggle, it is usually because we run out of perimeter weapons," Self said. "If Brandon [Rush] is not on his game or if Mario [Chalmers] is not making shots, how do we score? It is good to have a guy like Sherron that you really don't have to run a play for. He gives us something we don't have."
Should the Jayhawks make the Final Four in San Antonio, Collins will have a little extra celebrating to do that weekend. On the Sunday after the national semifinals, Sherr'mari will celebrate his first birthday. "[Being at the Final Four] would be a nice birthday present," Sherron says.
But that's a long time off. For now, his girlfriend and son, mother and uncle and high school coach and members of the Cotter Boys & Girls Club will follow his success from afar.
"He's playing basketball in Lawrence, Kan.," said Longstreet, Collins' high school coach. "If there's something better than that, you let me know."
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