Dick Harmon: BYU's Kyle Collinsworth already working toward future comeback
When called to serve an LDS mission to Russia after his freshman year at BYU, he walked away from a starting point guard job that was his for the taking when Jimmer Fredette left for the NBA. He told family and friends if he was going to leave basketball, he was going to do everything he could in Russia to further his faith — doing it halfway wasn’t an option, or he might as well stay and play ball.
Russia is a very tough assignment. It's not the mission field for whiners and complainers. The people struggle to trust people; the government is full of corruption, alcoholism is rampant as families struggle.
Months into his mission, Collinsworth noticed the difficulty and the challenge. Missionaries struggled to learn the language and few knew it well enough to be able to express themselves from their heart, so Russian people could fully understand their commitment, faith and message.
Determined not to waste his time and efforts, Collinsworth decided to get up an hour and a half earlier every day and work on learning Russian. It was something he’d mostly do by himself, adding 90 minutes to what was usually a long and tough day proselyting. In time, he was involved in teaching and baptizing a family with five boys — unheard of in his mission. He had conquered the language, according to his mission president upon his release to return home.
Collinsworth is a private person and shies away from the limelight. His mother says he hates drawing attention to himself. But he’s also a good soldier, which during his career has highlighted his attention to detail as a role player.
A former Utah Mr. Basketball, Collinsworth’s first year at BYU was spent as a rebounder and defender as Fredette, Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock were featured scorers. Sometimes he’d get yelled at for not guarding Fredette’s man in addition to his own.
In his sophomore year, Collinsworth’s role has been to rebound, create assists, run the offense, defend and score from the wing when featured scorer Tyler Haws is double- and triple-teamed.
But at times the past few weeks, he’s been needed to score, and he has delivered. Eleven games ago, he scored 20, 18 and 19 points in three games. His last games, he put up scores of 23, 18 and 13 before his injury with 13½ minutes left in the Gonzaga game.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Drury. “He has great drive and determination, and I’m proud of a BYU team that rose up in his absence and cut a 21-point Gonzaga lead to eight. That says a lot about his teammates and what they think of him.”
It is Drury’s experience as one of Utah’s veteran high school coaches that a team can rally for a game or two when a player goes out. BYU did when Fredette and Company lost Davies, another Drury player.
A year ago, Collinsworth was in Russia wearing a white shirt and tie. That he manufactured a solid sophomore year is a credit to his physical abilities, said Drury. “He did it the right way and you have to give credit to Tyler Haws for how he came off his mission. Kyle followed the Tyler model for postseason preparation.”
Drury also credits BYU’s medical staff for quickly icing Collinsworth’s knee, which hastened Tuesday’s surgery instead of delaying the procedure for another week to 10 days for swelling to go down.
“He’s had a great year. He went through a little slump in the preseason and then got back on the horse and has had dominating games the last 10 games,” said the Provo coach.
“When Anson Winder began coming in, Kyle immediately got him involved. It wasn’t always with assists but more like hockey assists. He’s a great teammate. I’d love to play with him, and I’m sure his teammates love playing with him.”
But all that ended prematurely in March in Las Vegas.
“It was just one of those freak things,” said Drury.
“One of those things that happen.”
Now Kyle knows what Chris knows.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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