Considering he has averaged a single-single throughout his NBA career, what in the world has gotten into Nick Collison of the Seattle SuperSonics lately?
Nothing much, other than he is being asked to do more, according to the man who knows him best, his father and former high school coach, Dave Collison of Iowa Falls, Iowa.
"The team had been struggling, so they decided to change the lineup," Dave said by phone. "They changed three starters and decided to try Nick at center."
The new lineup, featuring former Maryland star Chris Wilcox at power forward, has paid off for the Sonics, winners of two in a row.
In the past four games, Collison has averaged 22.3 points and 13.3 rebounds and is shooting .667 from the field, .778 from the line.
Dave and Judy Collison subscribe to the NBA League Pass and watch every game, recording those that conflict with the games of Nick's younger brother, Michael. A sophomore in high school who has sprouted to 6-foot-7, Michael plays for the junior varsity and varsity.
"Nick's been a terrific influence on Michael for a long time," the boys' father said. "It was tough for a while. Michael thought he'd be living in Nick's shadow. He's accepted he's not Nick. Everybody else knows he's not Nick, and he's getting better all the time."
So is Nick, now that guard Ray Allen needs help scoring while fellow perimeter threat Rashard Lewis is injured.
"Everybody else is looking for (Nick and Wilcox)," Dave Collison said. "Nick's getting the ball more on pick-and-rolls. In the past, they didn't look for him. He's playing with a lot of confidence, being more aggressive and staying out of foul trouble."
Collison is an interesting case study for college players convinced by hangers-on they are ready for the NBA. He twice played in the Final Four, was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior and finished his career as the all-time leading Big 12 scorer and rebounder. Dick Vitale took off his headset and gave him a standing ovation when he fouled out after a 24-point, 23-rebound performance against a loaded Texas team. Nobody on the current KU team can come close to bragging of similar achievements.
Collison's ability to run the floor so well for a big man made him a good NBA fit, yet it has taken until now, in his third season (not counting the first year, which he missed after surgeries to both shoulders) for him to blossom.
Rather than listen to potentially dangerous voices urging a jump, players should listen to an ex-coach and the father of an NBA player.
"I don't think kids understand how much fun and what an awesome experience it is to play four years of college basketball, particularly at a place like Kansas," Dave Collison said. "Nick says all the time that when you get to the NBA, it's not nearly as glamorous. After the game, you get on a plane and fly to the next city, get to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning, get up in the morning for a shoot-around, take a nap, go to the game and get back on a plane. It's a terrific way to make a living, and anybody who does is very, very fortunate, but it's not as enjoyable as playing basketball at Kansas. I hope the guys at Kansas appreciate what they've got. They really need to enjoy that and give it all they've got for a long time."