Wake Forest’s John Collins Is Country’s Least-Heralded Star

    Wake Forest's John Collins is one of the best players in the country. But the Demon Deacons are falling off of the bubble, possibly preventing Collins from enjoying the NCAA Tournament stage.

    February 21, 2017

    Wake Forest’s John Collins is one of the best players in the country. But the Demon Deacons are falling off of the bubble, possibly preventing Collins from enjoying the NCAA Tournament stage.

    When you think about all of the standout star players we have seen in the ACC throughout the 2016-17 college basketball season, names such as Luke Kennard (Duke), Dennis Smith Jr. (NC State), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Jonathan Isaac (Florida State) and Donovan Mitchell (Louisville) immediately come to mind.

    For one reason or another, John Collins is often overlooked.

    The Wake Forest star has been a double-double machine throughout his sophomore season, recording his 13th in the team’s tough 99-94 loss to Duke this past Saturday. Collins had a career-high 31 points to go along with 16 rebounds against the Blue Devils, giving Wake its first 30-point game since Devin Thomas had 31 versus Louisville in 2015. It was the second time in a week that Collins set a career high in points, as he had 29 against Clemson in the Demon Deacons’ previous outing.

    The setback in Durham also served as yet another missed opportunity for Wake to claim a marquee victory against a Top 25 team, or a squad that is likely headed to the NCAA Tournament.

    A seven-point loss at Northwestern and a four-point setback at Xavier in nonconference play preceded a six-point loss to North Carolina, a two-point setback to Duke—when the Blue Devils rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes at Joel Coliseum—and a seven-point defeat at Notre Dame in ACC competition before the rematch with the Blue Devils. On Saturday, Wake was yet again unable to secure an upset victory despite the great performance from Collins.

    Wake Forest big man John Collins has been a double-double machine all season. (Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports)

    In the loss, the West Palm Beach, FL, native became the first Demon Deacon in the last 40 years to score 20 points in 10 consecutive games. Additionally, he became the third player in the last 20 years with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds against a Mike Krzyzewski-coached squad, with Florida State’s Al Thornton (2005-06) and Nick Collison of Kansas (2002-03) being the others.

    However, his teammates were unable to get him the ball in the last two minutes of the contest, costing them yet another chance at a victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last time Wake won there on Jan. 11, 1997, the great Tim Duncan was a senior All-American. Collins, who was born in September of that year, had a Duncan-like performance on Saturday. However, it was all for naught, as the Demon Deacons lost their 18th straight game at Cameron.

    Younger Demon Deacon fans may not be aware, but there was a time when Wake Forest once beat Duke on nine straight occasions. Randolph Childress, the associate head coach of the Demon Deacons whose son, Brandon, is a freshman guard for the team, had a key hand in many of those wins. This past weekend, Collins did all he could to start a new streak against the Blue Devils.

    Collins may be the most unheralded star player in the country, though that is starting to change. It can change even more if he is able to get time on the national stage that the NCAA Tournament offers. A trip to the Big Dance would be Wake’s first appearance since 2010, which was the last time it secured a road victory against a ranked opponent.

    There’s no question that the Deacons are a much improved unit from last season’s squad that finished 2-16 in league play, but one has to wonder whether this team squandered one too many chances this year.

    Manning and Co. have started to fall off of the NCAA bubble after three losses in their last four games, so there is plenty of work to do in order to polish up their résumé before the end of the regular season and beginning of the ACC Tournament. Games remain against Pitt and Louisville at home before a road test at Virginia Tech. At 15-12 overall and 6-9 in league play, the Demon Deacons have a better chance of landing in the NIT unless they can finish the regular season strong and perhaps win a game or two in the conference tournament.

    If the Demon Deacons can better close out games down the stretch, perhaps America will be able to better acquaint itself with a premier big man who has a chance to be one of the higher picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

    MORE: Georgia Tech vs. NC State Prediction, Game Preview


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