You could call Daimion Collins the quiet Cat.
The University of Kentucky freshman met with the media on Friday night during John Calipari’s Father/Son Basketball Camp and came off as friendly, with a big smile, and a bit on the shy side.
A media member commented to Collins that he seemed a little “chill.” Is he that way on the court? Or does he flip the switch when the game starts?
“I flip the switch,” said Collins, smiling.
Collins certainly turned it on during his high school career in small-town Atlanta, Texas, population 5,495 (as of 2019) in northeast Texas, about 170 miles from Dallas and just 60 miles north of Shreveport, Louisiana. Thanks to the locale, Collins didn’t garner as much attention as hoops prospects from various metropolises. Nor did he receive as much media coverage.
“There was some attention, but not this much,” Collins said Friday to a dozen or so media members at Memorial Coliseum. “Coming into this was kind of new for me.”
Make no mistake, Collins’ game boasts big-time potential. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward was a five-star prospect ranked 13th nationally in the class of 2021 by the 247Sports composite — 11th by 247Sports, 15th by Rivals and 17th by ESPN. Recruited originally by former UK assistant Joel Justus, now at Arizona State, Collins also had a prior relationship with current UK assistant Jai Lucas from Lucas’ days at the University of Texas.
Considered a tad raw on the offensive end, Collins has been touted as a shot-blocker in the Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel mode. He has also been compared to Isaiah Jackson, whose rapid rise last year as a UK freshman catapulted the Michigan native to potential lottery pick status in the July 29 NBA Draft.
“I’d say it’s fair,” Collins said Friday of the Jackson comparison. “He was a really good player defensive-wise and offensive-wise. So I think that’s a fair comparison.”
But who does Collins model his game after?
“Kevin Durant,” replied the freshman. “That’s my favorite player. I watched him, how he does things. I try to mimic off of that, try to get my game better.”
Not that he’s in Durant’s league yet. That’s an exclusive club. But the chance to get there is one of the reasons he picked Kentucky in the first place.
“I think the biggest thing about it was the player development they had with all their players, getting them where they need to be,” he said. “I think that’s what I was focused on a lot. That’s what made my decision.”
It’s very early, but Collins has been getting to know his new teammates through working Calipari’s camps, the pick-up games at the Joe Craft Center and the team workouts that began last week.
“It’s been going good so far, just getting to be out there with the kids, with the team, coaches and everything,” he said. “It has been helping a lot because I’ve been bonding with the team. It helps the chemistry and stuff on the court. The relationships off the court building up more and more, too.”
Working on getting bigger, stronger
What is Collins focusing on this summer? His offensive game, for one thing. His outside shot has been a pleasant surprise so far, but “I want to work on getting my shot more consistent.”
Then there’s his body. Collins has been described as rail-thin. He wants that to change.
“I most definitely need to get stronger to be able to play at this level and the level after that,” he said. “So we’ve been working pretty hard in the weight room — eating food, trying to get bigger.”
You might think the outsized nature of Kentucky basketball might be a bit overwhelming for the small-town kid from east Texas.
“I knew coming in I’d be surrounded by good people and a good atmosphere,” Collins said. “So far, that’s what it has been.”
And he said it with a huge smile.