KU needs Collins at his best

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It’s D-Day-, Battle of the Bulge- and Iwo Jima-time for Gen. Sherron Collins. As he goes, so, probably, will the Kansas basketball team go in the NCAA Tournament.

As the current season began, coach Bill Self designated Collins as his commander-in-chief for combat. The Chicago junior readily accepted the assignment to make these Jayhawks “my team.” Often he’s been a scintillating leader.

Yet Sherron has had games where he was a flat wheel, such as at Missouri and against Baylor. He won’t be allowed such luxury from here on.

With center Cole Aldrich iffy because of a foot problem, about which an opposing coach such as West Virginia’s Bob Huggins surely has taken special note, KU needs Collins to unfurl two of his finest performances to maneuver his team through the first weekend of the tourney.

Collins keeps us in suspense with erratic ball-handling and bad decisions. Most of the time he’s all-conference caliber, other times far below that level. Take those three late capers against Baylor — air ball, blown layup and turnover. He is, or should be, a lot better than that, and has been. More, more!

The Jayhawks have reached the no-second-chance stage. If North Dakota State’s Bison herd doesn’t spring the major upset some are predicting, Kansas is due to encounter a West Virginia team that is typical Huggie Bear — big, active and quite coarse in court demeanor. I picture aggressive WVU as Hagar the Horrible’s Vikings raiding an English church — only not nearly as funny. Huggins teams are noted for their rough play; they’ll be finely tuned.

The Big East beasts won’t be timid about pushing, jamming and foot-faulting KU’s Aldrich at every opportunity, hoping that boot he’s been wearing off-court for about a month disguises an Achilles heel. These guys would love to shoot that magic arrow, Paris-style, that will disable or at least neutralize Aldrich.

So it’s up to Gen. Collins to jump in a Jeep like George Patton and drive the Jayhawks to victory over the Bison and Mountaineers. If Aldrich is no worse off than he says he is, if the Morris twins provide KU the consistent clutch play it needs at the No. 4 spot and Brady Morningstar does his usual thing Kansas can make the Sweet Sixteen.

But first, Sherron Collins needs to fully justify the coach’s faith in his ability to lead so Kansas can survive and advance.

• Last week, I noted that there are 12 former Kansas basketball players earning annual salaries that collectively amount to some $60 million. The ink had barely dried before people contacted me to see how many of these guys are sending some of their loot to KU in gratitude for its getting them where they are.

A whole host of those in the moneyed Jayhawk family have been tremendously generous, like Bill Hougland, Gil Reich, Wilt Chamberlain, Dean Smith, Gale Sayers, Roy Williams, Bill Self . . . many who don’t want their names outed. And not just for sports.

I know a couple whose will is loaded for KU, with the stipulation that if KU ever reveals their names, the loot is lost. Little wonder that KU financial sources are reluctant to say much about aid from athletes, unless they allow such. Many don’t.

Rest assured that KU jocks in all sports have been far more generous than we usually are allowed to know.