Originally published February 20, 2010 at 12:00a.m., updated February 20, 2010 at 12:38p.m.
Cole Aldrich grew a bit emotional Thursday as he reflected on the career of one of the greatest players in Kansas University basketball history.
The 6-foot-11 junior center actually had goose bumps rise up on both arms while storytelling about Sherron Collins, Aldrich’s teammate and good buddy who today can tie Raef LaFrentz, Billy Thomas and C.B. McGrath as KU’s all-time winningest players in a four-year span.
“He has put his heart and tears into everything that is Kansas basketball. It just means the world to him,” Aldrich said of Collins, who has been part of 122 victories against 17 defeats heading into today’s 3 p.m. home contest against Colorado.
LaFrentz, Thomas and McGrath went 123-17 from 1995 to ’98.
“He’s so passionate. He loves playing the game and loves being competitive,” Aldrich added of the point-guard deluxe who ranks 10th in scoring, seventh in assists, fourth in three-pointers made and 20th in steals on KU’s career charts.
To Aldrich, one memory stands out above the rest.
“I still remember my freshman year when Sherron was dribbling on the opposite side of the court. I’m sitting right next to Jeremy Case in the national championship game, and I’m like, ‘Jeremy, why is he not running down the court? What is he doing just dribbling the ball? Does he not know there’s eight seconds left?’’’ Aldrich said.
Of course, sophomore floor general Collins knew KU trailed Memphis by three points with time running out in the 2008 title game in San Antonio’s Alamodome.
He scooped the basketball to Mario Chalmers, who drilled the shot that sent the game into OT, where KU won going away.
“Those memories will always stick with you — the huge plays that he’s made for us and just the great guy he’s been in the locker room,” Aldrich said.
With a maximum of 14 games remaining in the 2009-10 season, Collins has a realistic shot at catching Shane Battier and other Duke seniors in the Class of 2001 as winningest collegiate player of all-time (133 victories in four years).
“That’s a great accomplishment. It’s a testament to what a great player Sherron is and how many wins he’s produced here at Kansas,” KU junior Tyrel Reed said. “I think it’s a big deal for him and we’re really proud of him.”
Collins admits it’d be special to defeat the Buffs (12-13, 3-8) today and etch his name into KU history books with Brady Morningstar, who also has been a Jayhawk the past four years. Junior guard Morningstar practiced, but did not play in games as a red-shirt during the ’08 title campaign.
“It’d be exciting,” Collins said of netting the KU wins record. “It’s a compliment. It’s a reflection on the guys on the teams who’ve been here with me. It’s a reflection on coach (Bill) Self, getting two or three different groups of guys buying into his system.
“Since I’ve been here all it’s been about is playing hard and winning. I thank coach and all the other guys who helped me do it. I couldn't do it myself,” Collins added.
Leader of a KU team that has won 25 of 26 games and all 11 league contests, Collins has not been shaken over a personal slump of sorts. In the last five games, Collins has averaged 13.2 ppg off 31.3 percent (20-of-64) shooting. He’s made eight of 29 threes for 27.5 percent while dishing 22 assists against 13 turnovers. In KU’s first six conference contests, he had averaged 15.3 points a game off 41.7 percent shooting (30-of-72). He hit 12-of-31 threes (38.7 percent) while dishing 24 assists against 13 turnovers.
“He’s not being very aggressive. He’s not driving the ball. He’s got to get his shoulders past people,” Self said of Collins, who through 26 games averages 15.1 ppg off 42.4 percent shooting with 109 assists versus 56 turnovers.
“He has to get in the paint and make plays. He can certainly do that. He’s probably settling too much right now. I’m not making a big deal out of him not shooting well. I don’t think it’s anything we need to be overly concerned with. He has to become more aggressive and go make plays for others instead of relying on just making jump shots,” Self added.
Collins isn’t stressing about his shooting stroke.
“I’ve been shooting it well in practice. It’s just not falling right now,” Collins said.
Self has said many times he wouldn’t trade Collins for any other guard in the country.
“Shooting percentages don’t matter. Assists don’t matter. Steals don’t matter. All that matters is you win. That’s why I think he’s the best. He does whatever we need to win,” Self said, hoping to witness historic victory No. 123 today.
• A previous version of this story contained an error.