The Summer of John Collins

 

A lot is changing for the Atlanta Hawks, and it’s been happening fast over the last couple of years. Atlanta as a city is constantly evolving, and you have no choice but to get with it or get lost. For John Collins, being a military brat means life is nothing but changes.

“It's what I’ve been doing in a sense my whole life,” Collins told Hawkshoop. “Going somewhere new and trying to figure out how to adjust.”

The team isn’t moving, but with coach Lloyd Pierce taking the helm, Collins is certainly in unfamiliar territory now. New offensive and defensive terminology. New approaches and standards to how the Hawks’ style of basketball will be played with a young cast. Young players want to run, play in space, and show off every dimension of their games—that's the “young stuff” that has Collins excited. Whether that happens or not is up to the coach, but they at least want a system that offers that freedom. Fortunate for Collins--Pierce wants to run and as often as possible. 

With the combination of Collins’ desire and coach Pierce’s wishes, it was agreed that adding a 3-point ball to his game would be beneficial for him and the team. In the first summer league game in Las Vegas, he wasted no time showing off his range by shooting 57% from downtown. This was much to the surprise of the audience, but not the 20-year old.

“I just feel like given the opportunity, I can shoot the ball,” Collins told Hawkshoop. “If I have an open shot, I’m going to make it now. I have that confidence to shoot now or at least go out there and be a threat. I’m just trying to add another layer to my game.”

Adding those layers, dimensions, and levels to Collins’ game is a long process that’s just begun with him heading into his sophomore season. He values and understand what patience truly means and how to differentiate it from complacency. One is rewarding, the other retrains one's potential. Collins has plenty of potential, given his thirst for knowledge and athleticism—no issues in that department.

As Atlanta continues to build its foundation, the word patience will be uttered a lot. Collins feels he’s more than prepared.

“I’ve been a part of a couple rebuilding projects. From Wake Forest to high school. I’ve been through the whole ‘not-good-to-start-winning’ process. I’ve seen it a couple times, and now it’s at a whole different level in the NBA. I’m ready to utilize what I’ve applied in my short career and turn it into something noteworthy.”

 


As Collins transforms the makeup of his game, he has also changed his scenery a few times over the course of the summer, visiting South Africa and the city of London. In South Africa, he took part in the NBA Africa game, which offered the likes of Joel Embiid, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Gay, and Danilo Gallinari to a part of the world stocked with talent.

A talent pool nothing short of immense, but exists under tough living conditions that stunt potential—conditions that would humble anyone, and Collins is no exception. The video of Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo and himself avoiding a kiss from a 6,000-pound plus elephant was shared across social media. Understandably so, but there was a project he assisted with outside of Johannesburg that made an impact not only on Collins, but on South Africans directly.

“We had a chance to go and build some houses for some of the underprivileged people over there,” Collins told Hawkshoop. “Seeing how they were living, it was cool to help build those houses. I never had a chance to build a house with my bare hands. Seeing them do that out in the sun was impressive. In the states, it's nothing like how they were doing it.”

“It just makes me realize that it could always be worse. The privileged life I’ve lived, and just seeing the way other people have to live, makes me appreciate what I have. Makes me respect and cherish what I have.”  

 

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Collins was reminded about humility on his trip to South Africa. His next stop took him to London to participate in the NBA’s crossover exhibition, which aims to show the union between the league and pop culture. A different experience, but an experience nonetheless. This time, he was able to indulge in some of the culture that England has to offer. For him, it had to be futbol, a sport he played as a child until his height and interest lead him to the hoops.

But his love for the sport has never wavered. He remains invested as a Chelsea fan and a huge Neymar supporter.

On this day, he would see neither, but instead watched a match-up of two of the premier clubs in the English Premier League between Manchester City and Arsenal at Emirates Stadium. Manchester city’s Raheem Sterling delivered Collins his first taste of European goal jubilation as he jetted across the top of the box past two defenders and delivered a strike to the bottom right corner.

“That was pretty cool,” Collins told Hawkshoop. “I am big soccer nerd, so I was real hyped up to attend that game. I was locked in the whole time. I felt like a little kid. I was excited to go. I had a great time. I wish Arsenal would’ve scored, which made me a little annoyed, but I still got to see some primetime soccer.”

Collins appreciates each and every experience, no matter what may come about or what the circumstances are. Its more than testing when you're squad finishes in the bottom half of the league. This doesn’t sit well with him, but the challenge at hand drives him. Just twenty-four wins—fourth lowest win total in franchise history.

Meanwhile, the Braves are pulling themselves out of a four-year playoff drought.

The hype around the Falcons’ potential has arrived yet again.

The Atlanta United sit on top of the MLS behind the right foot of striker Josef Martinez. Every home game for the United feels like an attendance-breaking record is bound to be announced. They own the top three largest-ever single-game regular-season attendance totals in MLS history. The Hawks finished last in attendance last season. Yet, Collins isn’t bitter. Instead, he looks at it as way to “bring more hype to Atlanta sports in general.” Its about the bigger picture as far as he sees it--not just his personal circumstances. 

 

The native of Utah (also attended Cardinal Newman High School in Florida) has attended some United games when his schedule permits. Recently, he carried out the ceremonial start to a United home game by hammering the golden spike that represents unity and strength. Once more, Collins embracing and adopting the customs of another land. Never closed off, always accepting.

The 20-year old connects all his experiences, environments, and the knowledge he’s pulled from each. Everyone and everything is a piece to his puzzle that has shaped him to be selfless, appreciative, and inspired—never salty or immodest. In the midst of all that, he still wants nothing more than to change the narrative of his team. His game will evolve over time, as will his team, but he hears the grumblings and feels the restlessness around him.

Atlanta Hawks bigman John Collins: ever-evolving, multifaceted, calm, but never content.

“Yeah man, we need to catch up! We need to get it going. We feel the pressure. We are doing a lot, like building the facility and all. We have to win something now. We have to prove ourselves. We do that, then everything else falls into place.”