This put a smile on my face.
New Pacers point guard Darren Collison has a passion for the game
'Hoops, that's what he lives for,' his college coach says of player who seized opportunity as a rookie
By Jeff RabjohnsPosted: August 12, 2010
Darren Collison has been so consumed with basketball, even those who knew him in college have a hard time recalling if he has any interests outside the game.
"Hoops, that's what he lives for," UCLA coach Ben Howland said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
Collison is now in the perfect spot, playing point guard for a team in a state that lives for the game, too.
After a breakout performance while starting as a rookie for part of the season in place of injured All-Star Chris Paul, Collison is in a position to become the Indiana Pacers' point guard of the future.
In 37 games as a starter last year, Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists. Over a full season, the Pacers have never had a player average more than the 8.7 assists of Mark Jackson in 1997-98.
"The NBA is all about opportunity, and he got one and took advantage of it," said Don MacLean, who played nine years in the league and now calls UCLA games on radio. "He's a starting point guard in the NBA and he proved that."
Collison was named to the All-Rookie first team last year. As a starter, he shot 49 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range.
For the season, Collison played in 76 games, averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 assists.
"He's lightning quick and he has different gears and he's an excellent shooter," Pacers general manager David Morway said. "I think he can come in here right away and really make a difference. It's something we haven't had here in a really long time."
The Pacers hope the 6-foot Collison, who turns 23 on Aug. 23, brings quality play to a position that has been unsettled for five years.
Team president Larry Bird stopped short of naming Collison the starter over T.J. Ford, but that seems a foregone conclusion with the move.
Collison was drafted 21st in 2009, eight spots after the Pacers picked forward Tyler Hansbrough.
"We liked him coming out of college. I didn't think he'd have the year he did last year," Bird said. "He's solid. He likes to defend. We know he can shoot the ball. He did a great job in college of putting the ball in the hole. We think he's a complete player. He's a young point guard to go with the rest of the core group we have, and we'll just keep building on it."
At UCLA, Collison was more of a distributor than scorer, never averaging more than 14.5 points in a season.
Collison has a reputation as someone with no taste for the nightlife.
"When he came to campus, he never went to parties," Howland said. "He's had one steady girlfriend since high school. He doesn't drink. Outside of basketball, I don't know if he does anything other than play video games.
"He's a real committed basketball player."
Follow Star reporter Jeff Rabjohns at twitter.com/JeffRabjohns. Call him at (317) 444-6183