PROVO — Now that guard Matt Carlino is leaving the BYU basketball program, there’s even more attention on the recovery of Kyle Collinsworth.
Just months after returning home from an LDS mission to Russia, the versatile Collinsworth made a huge impact for the Cougars as the team’s second-leading scorer and leader in both rebounds and assists.
The Provo High product was playing perhaps his best basketball of the year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the West Coast Conference championship game against Gonzaga.
Two days before BYU faced Oregon in the NCAA tournament, Collinsworth underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.
His absence was certainly felt in the Cougars’ loss to the Ducks in Milwaukee.
According to coach Dave Rose, the prognosis for recovery for the junior-to-be is six to eight months — anywhere from the end of August to early November. As of now, Rose isn't considering redshirting Collinsworth.
Rose is optimistic about Collinsworth being able to return to the court for the 2014-15 campaign.
“The doctors are really encouraged about how the surgery went,” Rose told the Deseret News this week. “There’s concern because you have to watch the process as it goes through. From the surgeon, and his feel for how it was repaired, if things go as planned, he should be back and ready to go for the season.”
Collinsworth is scheduled to begin rehab soon.
“I spent some time with Kyle last week. The signs of recovery are all really good,” Rose said. “Kyle’s really positive. He feels really confident about the surgery and what the doctors have told him. He has a real positive energy about overcoming the challenge We’re looking forward to when he can start to put more weight on his leg, then get to the rehab part of the process. Hopefully, that’s how it works.”
The Cougars open the season in early November, and they will once again be tested in the preseason, including a trip to the Maui Invitational on Nov. 24-26.
As disappointing as it was to lose Collinsworth before the NCAA tournament, it was fortunate, Rose said, that Collinsworth wasn’t sidelined for the year earlier in the season.
At Saint Mary’s on Feb. 15, Collinsworth took a frightening, awkward fall and injured his right knee in the first half. But he returned to action four minutes later after a trip to the locker room.
“When you judge the falls, that looked way worse (at Saint Mary’s) than the fall when he injured it (against Gonzaga),” Rose said.
Collinsworth continued playing all the way up until his season-ending injury, and he was one of the main reasons why the Cougars were able to win six straight games during a crucial stretch from mid-February through early March and earn consideration as an at-large team for the NCAA tournament.
“It’s a miracle, really. When I went down, I thought my season was over,” Collinsworth told the Deseret News after BYU’s win over Loyola Marymount in the WCC tournament about his injury at Saint Mary's. “People don’t know what it's been like to get my knee ready. I’ve been going through a process, spending hours waking up early to go to a pool, getting treatments just to get my knee ready. It still isn’t back all the way and at times today I found myself going up on one leg, protecting the other.”
When the Cougars returned to practice after losing to Gonzaga in the WCC championship game, the mood on the team was subdued.
“The first day of practice when Kyle wasn’t there, it was an emotional train wreck with our guys,” Rose said during the NCAA tournament. “The feel in the guys was basically everybody feeling sorry for Kyle or maybe feeling sorry for themselves.”
BYU knew what it was up against when it played Oregon without Collinsworth’s ability to score and distribute the ball, as well as his athleticism and leadership.
“Kyle, he’s a guy that you can’t replace, and he brings so much to our team,” said guard Tyler Haws.
After the loss to the Ducks, Carlino said of playing without Collinsworth, “It’s different when you play every game with a dude, then he’s not there in a tournament game. We obviously missed him out there, especially with no games played without him. It’s tough to come in here and try to figure it out on the go. It’s tough not playing without one of your starters. We threw a lot of lineups out there in the first half, trying to catch our rhythm. But when you’re without a guy like (Collinsworth), it’s tough to catch a rhythm.”
If the Cougars have to play at all next season without Collinsworth, there are some question marks about who the point guard would be. His replacement in the NCAA tournament was Carlino, who plans to transfer after he graduates from BYU in June.
Anson Winder has played some at that position during his career, and Frank Bartley IV could see some time there as well. Incoming freshman Jordan Chatman is a combo guard that can play the point.
But the best-case scenario for BYU? That Collinsworth returns healthy, and ready to play, in the fall.