PROVO — Just one year ago, Kyle Collinsworth was leading the Provo High Bulldogs into the state playoffs.
Now, the BYU freshman guard is playing on a much bigger stage, for a top-10 college basketball team, and the stakes are so much higher.
The No. 7 Cougars visit No. 6 San Diego State Saturday (noon, CBS) in one of the most important regular-season games in school history.
This is the type of scenario Collinsworth had dreamed of when, as a highly touted recruit, he decided to become a Cougar — choosing BYU over programs like Stanford and Virginia in the fall of 2009.
"It's what I expected. I'm glad I signed with BYU," Collinsworth said. "It's fun stuff. It's a lot of pressure, but you have fun with it."
Of course, like most freshmen, Collinsworth has gone through a variety of ups-and-downs, and has learned valuable lessons along the way.
The biggest adjustment?
"Just playing your role," said 6-foot-6, 210-pounder. "Obviously, in high school, you're the man. It's just being able to play your role and knowing what you're supposed to do."
Collinsworth has been adept at finding his role, which is whatever coach Dave Rose needs him to do. He's been Mr. Versatility, playing multiple positions, which has included backing up Jimmer Fredette at point guard. Collinsworth has also been adept at filling a stat sheet — whether it be making a nifty pass for an assist or pulling down a crucial rebound in the paint.
For the season, Collinsworth is averaging 6.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Collinsworth came into the program essentially replacing Tyler Haws, who starred last season as a freshman before leaving for a mission.
Because of the attention he had received in high school, and the void Haws left, there was some pressure on Collinsworth from Cougar fans to make an impact right away.
"I worried about the expectations people had for Kyle coming in," said Rose. "He's done a great job for us this season."
While Collinsworth has experienced typical growing pains, he has been a solid contributor.
Collinsworth started 20 consecutive games before suffering a concussion in a win over UNLV on Feb. 5. Since being sidelined at Air Force on Feb. 9, he has provided a spark off the bench the last three games, as evidenced by the eight rebounds and three assists he recorded in Wednesday's 84-76 triumph over Colorado State. He also tallied eight boards in last weekend's win at TCU.
At CSU last month, Collinsworth played an important role in that victory, scoring a career-high 16 points, and adding six rebounds and six assists.
"He was a big key in winning the game," Fredette said.
Last year, Collinsworth was named Deseret News Mr. Basketball and earned the state's Gatorade Player of the Year award. In addition to Virginia and Stanford, he was recruited by Kansas, Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Utah, Marquette and USC.
One of the reasons Collinsworth picked BYU was because he wanted to play with his older brother, Chris, a sophomore forward who returned home from an LDS mission in time for the 2010-11 season.
However, in January, Chris underwent season-ending knee surgery.
"It's disappointing for me, but it's more disappointing for him, of course, because he worked so hard during the off-season to be ready to play," Kyle said. "It's hard to see him get hurt. But it's still fun. He travels with us to games and he's here during practice. But if he gets the medical redshirt, he'll be a senior when I get back from my mission and we would still have one year to play together. That would be good."
Earlier this month, Kyle received his mission call to the Russia Vladivostok Mission. He departs on May 18. Chris, who served a mission in Australia, influenced Kyle's decision to serve.
"I look up to both of my older brothers a lot. Chris has helped me, especially when it comes to a mission," Kyle said. " If he hadn't gone, I probably wouldn't be going. He's been a good example in that aspect of my life."
Kyle's mission call letter arrived at Collinsworth's home the day BYU played Wyoming in Laramie on Feb. 2. When he returned that night after the game on the team's charter flight, he opened it.
"I'm glad I got called to a place like that — a challenging place," he said. "It'll be more fun that way. It will be hard, obviously, but I like that kind of stuff. I like challenges."
One of the challenges on the court has been playing on a guardline with two of the top senior guards in the country, Fredette and Jackson Emery. For Collinsworth, that dynamic duo has provided him with excellent examples of how to play on both ends of the floor.
"Jimmer's obviously a great player and offensively, he's taught me a lot. He's kind of been my mentor," he said. "Jackson's our best defender. I look to him for that. It's good to have such a great offensive player and defensive player as your mentors. I look up to them. They teach me a lot and help me a lot."
On Saturday, the versatile Collinsworth's learning process continues on a big stage, in a game with huge stakes, at San Diego State.
Cougars on the air
No. 7 BYU (26-2, 12-1 MWC) at No. 6 San Diego State (27-1, 12-1)4 comments on this story
Aztec Bowl, San Diego
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