By JASON ELMQUIST
Sherron Collins couldn't find time from his busy schedule of preparing for the NBA draft to attend the University of Kansas men's basketball banquet last Monday. But he made time for Jayhawk fans in Garden City on Saturday.
Collins hit Garden City as part of the Kansas Barnstorming Tour, signing autographs, posing for pictures and participating in a basketball game with area high school seniors and Garden City Family YMCA Noon Basketball League players.
"It's all for the fans," said Collins, before Saturday's game at Perryman Athletic Complex. "It's for those fans that really don't get a chance to come watch us play as much or get out to the fieldhouse. We know how hard it is to get tickets, so I just want to give them a good show."
And a good show is what they got.
Collins brought high school teammate Marquis Moorman from Chicago and Kapaun Mt. Carmel's Justin Williams to play alongside members of the NBL: Scott Koksal, Jason Just, Ben Knoll, Greg Calzonetti and Joe Kottas.
"Every day at noon, we act like we're playing with Sherron and now we actually get to play with him," Koksal said. "It was amazing. It was a blast."
For Garden City High School senior Chris Ruiz, the feeling was a little different. In the final seconds of the first half, Collins pulled out a crossover move and jetted past Ruiz, and Ingalls' Marty Wendel, to score a layup to make it 24-22, Barnstormers, at the break.
"He made me look stupid when he crossed me over," said Ruiz, who scored two points, while hauling down three rebounds in the game. "I should have known he was going to do it. I was just like, 'please don't shoot it on me' and I just let him cross me over. But overall, it was a fun experience."
During the short halftime break, the Barnstormers auctioned off a pair of game-worn shoes autographed by Collins. The pair went for $800.
That wasn't the only souvenir given by Collins during the game.
Collins had his own little Terrell Owens moment in the final minutes of the game. Referee Daniel Beltran, who was awarded with a plaque before the game for his service to the community, handed Collins a sharpie to autograph the game ball. After signing it, they gave the ball to a kid in the crowd.
"That was just great," Koksal said. "I was here earlier when the kids were lining up. My own boy was out there and that's all he could talk about since I got the chance to play when Chad Knight (executive director at the YMCA) asked me to. That's what neat and is a lot of fun about all of this."
While it was all fun with Collins' squad winning by a narrow 48-44 margin, it was still intense on the All-Stars bench in the closing minutes — especially with All-Star coaches Mark Leslie and Jaxon Autry, assistant coaches for the Garden City Community College men's basketball team.
"You want to beat him of course," Ruiz said. "You want to be able to brag about it to people like, 'By the way, I just beat Sherron Collins.' No big deal."
Helping give the All-Stars a final surge was South Gray's Chase Clancy, who has signed to play for GCCC next year. Clancy led the All-Stars with 13 points — including three 3-pointers — and had two boards with one assist. Lakin's Dylan Shalberg led the All-Stars with five rebounds to go with his seven points.
"Coach Leslie was telling us we want to beat them," Clancy said. "So I was just trying to do my best to help us win."
Collins finished the game with 25 points, six assists, two rebounds and a steal.
"People think we just look so mean out there on the court and that they can't come up and talk to us," Collins said. "We just try to interact with them and try to loosen them up and just have fun with them. It's just a great time."
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While Collins is taking time over the weekend for the barnstorming tour, he said the past week has been pretty hectic. He missed Monday's awards banquet because he was in Chicago signing with an agent.
"I was real disappointed," Collins said. "But I think my coaches and my teammates and everybody who was at the banquet, understand how much preparation it takes to get ready for the NBA draft. Around this time is an important time because you've got to get your workouts in and everything.
"The fans at Kansas have been great. The University of Kansas has done so much for me. I would have loved to have been there. I'm going to try to make the scholar banquet. I'm going to try to make that one and try to get to any other thing I can. It's just unfortunate that the draft and getting ready for it, you just have to be so many places, trying to be at three places at one time — I wish I could have been there. I was sad to miss it, but the guys know what I'm doing."
Since then, he's been working out two times a day in Las Vegas in preparation for the NBA draft in June.
"It's been rough," Collins said. "It's a great city, but the workouts have been tough. But it's all good. It's not a Kansas individual workout, it's a whole different kind of workout now. It pushes you to the limit and gets you ready — something I need. So it's great."
Some of the guys he's been working with include fellow Big 12 Conference players Craig Brackins from Iowa State and Oklahoma State's James Anderson. Collins also mentions Michigan's Many Harris and Stanley Robinson from the University of Connecticut.
"We've got like an All-American team out there," Collins said. "So there's a lot of competition. It's real good to be working with those guys."