Sherron Collins enters his sophomore year at Kansas University with one overriding goal in mind.
Making his son proud.
"It makes me work harder, knowing I have a child," Collins, KU's 5-foot-11, 203-pound point guard from Chicago, said.
He and girlfriend Re'Quiya Aguirre welcomed baby boy Sherr'mari Marlon Collins into this world shortly after the end of Sherron's freshman campaign, on April 6.
Collins was sporting a tattoo with his son's name on it at Friday's media day in Allen Fieldhouse.
The tattoo, on his lower arm, is one he can look at when in need of a lift.
"Before the games, when I'm doing my normal routine, I'll think about him," Collins said of his son, who lives with Re'Quiya back in the Windy City. "During the game, I need to completely focus on what's going on out there (on the court)."
Thoughts of his baby - who Sherron said is "getting bigger and bigger, he is sitting up on his own now and already crawling" - will permeate his mind pretty much every day the rest of Sherron's life.
"He's made me look at a lot of things in a lot of different ways," Collins said. "I want him to feel good about his dad. I want him to have a good life and not go through the things I had to go through. He makes me take things a lot more seriously."
Collins - he has shuffled back and forth from Chicago to Lawrence several times since April to visit his child - did not have the best relationship with his own dad, Steven, as a youngster.
"He really didn't leave. He went to jail doing stupid stuff," Sherron said. "When he was out of jail, he did things he was supposed to do for us, but he was in jail so much it was like he was never there because he went (to jail) a lot.
"We talk a few times here and there. The relationship is not where it should be," Collins added, noting his dad is doing well now with a job in Minnesota. "I have long talks with my mom. She says I have to learn to forgive and live on. I forgive him. He knows the things he didn't do.
"It hurts him more knowing how I turned out, and he wasn't really a part of it. The relationship is getting better. He still gives me advice. He is still my dad. I've got to give him respect. I love him still, but it doesn't change everything."
Collins says he's certain he will be close to his own son forever.
"It was not something we planned, but I am real happy to be a dad. My son ... I love him. He is adorable," Collins said. "I have a good family, a strong base, and I love my girlfriend a lot.
"I think about him all the time. My mother says the baby is really so happy all the time. He laughs like there is an angel there playing with him. My mother said it's like his big brother comes down to play with him."
Collins lost his firstborn son, Sherron Jr., who lived just 10 days after being born four months premature on June 3, 2006.
"Things have got to go on, but I miss him a lot," said Collins, who visits his son's gravesite when he can and has honored his memory with a tattoo on his own forearm that says "R.I.P. Sherron, Jr."
"Before every free throw, I look at him before I shoot."
All he can do now is enjoy every moment with Sherr'mari Marlon.
"I worked the camps all summer and saved my money, put money in the bank, so when the time comes he needs something, I want to be there for his needs," Sherron said. "Actually, his mom and grandmother said not to buy him much because they bought him too much and there's no more room. I buy him everything."
One of Collins' mentors -Chicago Crane High school coach Anthony Longstreet, who attended Friday's media day and Late Night - said it was heartening to see Sherron and his baby together.
"I was teasing him the other day. I told him, 'If you don't stop kissing that baby, you will pull the skin off his cheek,'" Longstreet said. "He can't put him down. He has a personal mission to make sure he is with his son as much as possible. I know he'll do a great job as a father because he has a great heart. Now that the season is starting, he'll not be able to see him as much. Maybe we can get the baby to come to a couple of games."
The baby has been in Lawrence before. Collins' teammates love the lad.
"The baby is a cute baby, just like all babies are," Collins' roommate, Brady Morningstar, said. "Sherron is a great dad. He always calls to Chicago, checking in on him. I know it's tough because he lost his first child. I know he'll be a great dad. He always is talking about his child."
"Sherron is a proud dad. He's going to take care of him," junior Mario Chalmers said. "He looks just like him."
KU's coaches, who all have children of their own, have been supportive as well.
"Coach (Bill) Self was very helpful in letting me go home every other weekend when the season was over," Collins said. "Coach encourages me to be a great dad. All the coaches are supportive, and my teammates, too. They just want me to be the best dad possible. I'm determined to do whatever it takes to be a great dad."