Thursday, June 23, 2005

Collison tickled to return to KU


The eyes of 2,000 fans in Horejsi Center were fixed on former Kansas University guard Kirk Hinrich on Wednesday afternoon as he put on a dribbling display that would have brought a smile to even the hottest-handling AND1 Mix Tape Tour player's face.

He bounced and wove on KU freshman Mario Chalmers, and while fellow Iowa native Nick Collison knew Hinrich had the moves to get to the rim, he still might miss, so Collison camped in the lane.

The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Collison was right. He easily rebounded Hinrich's in-and-out lay-up and tapped the ball back in the hoop for two points.

"Kind of like old times," said a smiling Collison, who teamed with former Jayhawk teammates Hinrich and Drew Gooden to lead the former KU players to a 101-92 victory over the current Jayhawk squad in the annual KU basketball camp game.

"It was really fun to get back together with everyone, but especially those guys," Collison said of the Chicago Bulls' Hinrich and Cleveland Cavaliers' Gooden, who scored 15 points each in the pick-up style game.

It wasn't the first time the three NBA players had been back in Lawrence at the same time since leaving KU, but it was the first year all three returned as playing pros.

Last year, Collison was banged up and bumming after shoulder injuries ended his NBA rookie campaign before it began.

But a year after repairing torn ligaments in his left shoulder and also having surgery on his right shoulder in hopes of preventing any future injuries in that joint, the lottery pick showcased the type of skills that made him an All-American and Seattle Sonics lottery pick two summers ago.

"I feel fine. Well, hot and out of shape because this is my first time running up and down since the Spurs series," said Collison, who averaged 8.4 points and five rebounds in 19.8 minutes during the Sonics' postseason run that ended with a loss to the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.

"It was fun. I started out really slow. Kind of a bit of a jump to the NBA, but also getting back after missing a year. By the midpoint of the year, I started playing more and feeling comfortable, and by the end I was having a lot of fun."

Collison seemed to be enjoying his time back in Lawrence and put on a bit of a show himself, canning a couple of three-pointers and throwing down a pair of dunks.

"If you ever want to come back, this is the time because you know a lot of the other guys will be here," Collison said. "None of the guys I played with are here anymore, and the staff is gone, so unless you want to come hang out by yourself, you got to come to camp."

Added Hinrich: "Whether it's a long amount of time or short amount of time to hang out with the guys, it's always good to be back."


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