Atlanta Hawks’ rookie forward John Collins learned at an early age that, if he was going to get on the court, he had to compete harder than the other players. Before Collins had grown to 6 feet 10 inches tall and possessed the skill set that enticed the Hawks to select him with the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Collins had to fight for playing time.
That trademark motor that he developed in his early basketball years, has stuck with Collins. It is his motor that allowed Collins to jump off the film at Wake Forrest the past two seasons.
“As a younger kid, I wasn’t as good as I am now,” Collins said. “When I was younger the only way I could get on the court was to play harder than everybody, outplay everybody. I think as I got older and as I got better that motor kind of stayed with me. It’s kind of a staple of how I play. I just play with heart and with a lot of energy. I think that’s really been it. As a young kid, the only way I could play was to play hard all the time and it’s sticking with me right now.”
For Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer and Hawks’ fans, the 6-feet-10-inch ball-of-energy that Collins made himself in the youth leagues and during his time at Cardinal Newman High School, could put some light into the ‘Highlight Factor’ this season.
Collins gave the basketball world a tease of what he brings to the table as he threw down monstrous dunks this summer in summer league play. Ultimately, Collins thinks it will be his defense that gets him on the court for consistent minutes this season. Collins knows that there will be an opportunity for him with the Hawks with Paul Millsap leaving to join the Denver Nuggets and Dwight Howard being traded to the Charlotte Hornets, but it will be up to him to seize it.
“All of the coaches have really let me know, it’s defense,” Collins said. “If I can come out on the defensive end and play hard and do my job and rebound the basketball, I can earn myself a lot of minutes. It’s all on me. The offense will take care of itself, but coach lets me know it’s defense if I want to get on the court.”
“It’s more of a learning process for me, I don’t think it’s really hit me fully yet [being an NBA player] I’m starting to come around to it,” Collins said. “It’s still all surreal, because everything is new. I think once I’ve done everything once or a couple times and it becomes a normality, then it’ll start to hit…Some of the things that are thrown at you as a young guy, you learn and adapt very quickly. For me, it’s just all about basketball, being on the court. It’s about hooping and playing and I think that’s something that comes really natural to me.”
Hawks break camp in Athens after a morning practice Thursday. Collins makes his Hawks’ debut as the team begins its preseason slate Sunday in Miami against the Heat.