He is the heart of their team. They have some outstanding players but he’s been through a lot of the wars and battles. —San Diego coach Lamont Smith, on Kyle Collinsworth
PROVO — In the West Coast Conference championship game against Gonzaga in Las Vegas two years ago, BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth suffered a devastating season-ending knee injury.
The timing and severity of the injury made some wonder if he would be able to return, let alone play at a high level, the following season.
Collinsworth heard the doubters. Overcoming that major setback has been a motivating factor for him.
“Right when I went down, the talk was redshirting and not even playing that (next) year. Talk was about taking 10 months and maybe making it back for conference play,” Collinsworth said. “It never was, at the beginning, about me coming back and playing in the first game. Just hearing people in the community saying I would never be the same again and I won’t be athletic anymore. I wasn’t supposed to really come back and if I did, I wasn’t supposed to be as good.”
Collinsworth came back that next season as a junior and set the NCAA single-season record and tied the NCAA career record with six triple-doubles.
As he heads into the final weeks of his Cougar career, Collinsworth is BYU’s all-time leader in assists and rebounds and he ranks No. 2 in steals and No. 13 in scoring. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound point guard and team captain also has 10 career triple-doubles, an ongoing record.
During the summer of 2014, Collinsworth pushed himself to be able to return that fall. He credits BYU strength and conditioning coach Bob Medina for helping him come back faster and better than many expected.
“Bob Medina was huge for me. He told me, ‘We’re not just coming back, we’re coming back better.’ He’d tell me that every day,” Collinsworth said. “I was with him for four, five hours every day to get better. We worked hard. Whenever things get tough, I look back at those days and I know I can push through anything and keep fighting.”
Collinsworth is one of three BYU seniors, along with Chase Fischer and Nate Austin, playing their final two regular-season games at the Marriott Center this weekend when the Cougars host Portland Thursday and Gonzaga Saturday.
There have been times during his career when Collinsworth has put his team on his back and carried it to victories. One of those games happened last Thursday in BYU’s 69-67 win at San Diego as Collinsworth scored 25 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and dished out six assists.
Torero coach Lamont Smith was impressed.
“He is the heart of their team. They have some outstanding players but he’s been through a lot of the wars and battles,” Smith said of Collinsworth. “He’s just a matchup nightmare. He’s so big and strong and he's so physical he can get to the rim and he can also distribute and post. His game is so versatile. He puts tremendous pressure on the defense.”
“Kyle kept us in it. That’s his senior leadership as a team captain," BYU guard Nick Emery said after that game. "His rebounding was huge. It goes throughout the team when Kyle’s playing that hard. Coach (Dave Rose) challenged us to play as hard as Kyle at halftime. We all took that challenge. Kyle kept us going.”
Collinsworth’s versatility and flair has made him a BYU fan favorite, from his alley-oop passes to the way he can make a steal then throw down a dunk in transition.
In BYU’s 91-33 win over San Diego at the Marriott Center last Saturday, Collinsworth threw a no-look pass behind him, and through his legs, to guard Zac Seljaas, who buried a 3-pointer.
For Collinsworth, success is all a matter of consistency and hard work.
“Since I got injured, I’ve found my routine and stuck with it,” he said. “If you’re good every day, you can be great eventually. I just try to be good every day and things add up.”
Collinsworth's career statistics and records have certainly added up.
Senior forward Nate Austin said while Collinsworth is known for his big numbers, ultimately, he just wants to win.
“He fills up the stat sheet but he’s very much a team-first guy. He wants success for other guys just as much as he wants it for himself. He’s a great leader and he does all the little things. He’ll pass the ball, come flying in for a rebound. He’s a team-first guy and because he is that guy, he’s been able to have a lot of individual success as well.”