After a week-plus hiatus, the Season Report Card series returns with the second to last installment. Look for some better-late-than-never thoughts on head coach Bill Self before the weekend when we put him under the microscope.
Stories don't always have the magical, fairy tale, happy ending that you see in the movies. Kansas basketball fans were reminded of this once again, ever so rudely this year, as their dream season came crashing down in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. When the wheels fall off in such an extraordinary fashion, where else do you look to for answers other than the leader of the team?
As the all-time winningest player in Kansas basketball history and a longstanding fan favorite, if you were to grade Sherron Collins on his four year career as a Jayhawk, you would be hard pressed to give him anything less than 100+ percent. After all, he was a vital part of a national championship team, the best sixth man in the country for a year and a half and the unquestioned leader of a pair of really good teams for two more.
As one of the most fiery, passionate and competitive players in a long, long time, Collins will forever be remembered for the better of times more so than the shortcomings to end his collegiate career. His career legacy is undeniable. His 2009-10 senior season, however, is a big more in question.
When you put Sherron's season numbers from last year and this year next to each other, there was a slight decline in every key statistical category for guards but one - ball security. As a junior, he posted a career-low assist to turnover ratio of 1.51. This year as a senior, he posted a career-high of 1.89. While his per game assist average fell 0.5 from last year to this year, turnovers correspondingly dropped 0.9. With more capable contributors on the team this year, part of the burden of being the team's go-to-guy was lifted from Sherron, thus making him more efficient in this regard.
While not overwhelmingly harming, the categories where numbers feel from last year are as follows: points per game (-4.4), field goal percentage (-0.8), three point percentage (-0.6). Those may not look bad, and that's because they're really not. With the addition of a Xavier Henry and the emergence of Marcus Morris as an offensive threat, Collins was asked to do much less as a senior than as a junior.
The thing that was so impressive about Sherron as a senior was his ability to pick and choose his moments to shine for much of the season. Obviously, when he was needed more than ever in the final game of the season, he didn't quite answer the bell as needed, but for 35 other games, he turned it on when needed and orchestrated otherwise.
One such time when Sherron was called upon to really shoulder the team and will them to win was during another near disaster (like Northern Iowa) against Cornell on January 6. If you remember, and I'm sure you do, that turned out to be one of the most frustrating team performances in recent memory. Too often did the rest of the team stand around and expect to be carried by Sherron. Well, Sherron did deliver by dropping a career-high 33 points on 9-16 shooting from the field, 2-5 from three and 13-14 from the free throw line. 9 points in the waning minutes and a key assist on a dagger three from Tyrel Reed make this game easily the game of the year for the Bowling Ball from Hell.
As indicative as anything all season long, arguably Sherron's worst game of the season came in his last game as a Jayhawk. It's never the way to go out, but only one team does get that perfect ending. In the upset loss to Northern Iowa, the lack of ability to pick his spots was one of the greatest factors that doomed the team that day. His shot was just off and all afternoon he kept trying to get it going, finishing 0-6 from three and only 4-15 from the field for only 10 points, while turning the ball over 5 times. Certainly not the way everyone envisioned a career as storied as his ending.
Final 2010 Grade: B
Never did you see Sherron have a problem with a slightly reduced role this year having more options around him. In fact, he was probably relieved. With the exception of the Northern Iowa game and the typical couple of off games, Sherron was Sherron. He was quick to penetrate, lethal from the outside and the emotional lifeblood of the Kansas Jayhawks. Always did he have the ears of his teammates and commanded respect. As would be expected, there were multiple games the team would not have won without Sherron, and for that he is definitely towards the head of the class. <Spoiler Alert> In my own opinion, far more of the blame is to be laid at the feet of someone other than Sherron. Who's yet to be graded out? Hmmm....