Back in August, the growing consensus was that 2021 five-star forward Daimion Collins was on the cusp of a commitment, with the home-state Texas Longhorns seen as the overwhelming favorite.
When Kentucky swooped in and offered a scholarship on Aug. 26, followed by UK officially stealing Texas assistant Jai Lucas away from Austin on Aug. 31, Collins’ recruitment took a much-needed pause.
Despite favoring the idea of staying close to home and playing for a Big 12 program, the Atlanta, TX native had no choice but to reevaluate his options and seriously consider what the Kentucky basketball program had to offer.
“We sat down and talked when he got the offer, he was really excited, came in smiling in my office,” Atlanta High School basketball coach Jarrod Boston told KSR. “I said, “You have to seriously think about this. What’s your end goal? What do you want to do in life?” He wants to play in the NBA, I’ll be honest with you.”
At Kentucky, the school’s track record with five-star big men just like Collins speaks for itself.
In his own coach’s words, it’s the “greatest pitch ever.”
“It’s the greatest pitch ever: “You come here, and we’ll give you the chance to play in the NBA,”‘ Boston said of Kentucky’s goes-without-saying recruiting pitch. “He knows. … He wants to get a shot. I said, “Well, you realize if you go to Kentucky, you will get a shot. You’ll at least get looked at and have the resources to get looked at.” It’s all up to how hard he’s willing to work, what he’s willing to do. That’s Kentucky’s allure.”
As hard as the Kentucky coaching staff works on the recruiting trail, they’re getting unexpected help in the form of free advertising with the NBA’s bubble down in Orlando. With the likes of Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, Keldon Johnson, and Wenyen Gabriel getting things rolling, followed by Eric Bledsoe, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jamal Murray throughout the playoffs, and then Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro in the NBA Finals, it’s been an endless infomercial for the Kentucky program.
And yes, Collins has noticed.
“You know you’ve got that network of guys,” Boston told KSR. “You watch the NBA Finals and it’s Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky. In the bubble, there’s Kentucky everywhere, and they’re showing out. He knows. It’s a big draw. … We talk a little bit about it, but he knows the network he’s going to come into if he picks Kentucky, and that excites him.”
This week, Collins – the No. 10 overall prospect in the Rivals recruiting rankings – cut his list down to five school, leaving Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Texas Tech remaining in contention. UK versus four Big 12 schools duking it out for the services of one of the most athletic, defensive standouts in high school basketball.
Where is he leaning currently? The rumblings are that Oklahoma and Kentucky are the 1A and 1B programs remaining in contention, followed by Texas, Kansas and Texas Tech in some form or fashion.
If you ask Collins himself, though, it’s an even playing field with no favorites.
“I’ll be honest with you, he asked if he could put his top five [list] out there, and it was during practice time,” Boston said of Collins. “I said, “Do you have a favorite right now?” I was being nosy. He said, “No, all five are right there on the same level.” So there is no early favorite, no early leader in the clubhouse. He hasn’t made up his mind.”
Despite the obvious draw to Kentucky from a professional standpoint, Collins is a “good ole country boy” from a town consisting of roughly 5,500 people. There’s a reason the other four schools on his list are from the Big 12, with three being within a one-state radius (Kansas being the other two states away).
“Oklahoma is relatively close to home, and him and [OU commit] Bijan [Cortes] spent a lot of time together this summer,” Boston told KSR. “They work out together and he spent a lot of nights over at Bijan’s house during the week. They’re really tight. He knows the other kid that just committed, CJ Noland from Waxahachie, they’re really close to him. The kids, the program, and Lon Kruger, he’s like a dad type of guy, he really likes him.”
“He loves Shaka Smart,” Boston said of Texas. “Which, I don’t know, I hope he’s going to be there for a while, but he loves Shaka Smart. Absolutely loves Shaka Smart.”
If it were a personal decision, Collins’ coach admits it would likely come down to proximity for the five-star forward.
But it’s more complicated than that.
“With proximity, it’d probably be better if he was closer,” Boston said, “but he knows schools like Kansas and Kentucky, when you start talking about those schools, you can do something really special after that. That’s a big draw.”
Weighing all the options has admittedly been difficult, especially in recent months. With no in-person recruiting allowed, it has been a constant stream of Zoom calls and virtual visits for the star big man, something he may be ready to cut out of his life sooner rather than later with a commitment.
“It’s been hard. I’ll be honest with you, here within the last month, he’s told me about how all the meetings and Zoom meetings, phone calls, it’s getting to be a little much,” Boston told KSR. “He’s getting tired of that stuff. I think that’s why he cut it down to five because he got tired of so many people trying to call. One day he called me, we usually meet at about 8 o’clock and I’ll open the gym, he’ll work out some nights. He was on a Zoom meeting from about 8 to 9:30 p.m., I think it was Oklahoma. He shook his head afterward and apologized, I said, “It’s all right, you can stay up here as long as you want to.”
“But yeah, it’s just wearing on him all the meetings, because he’s a quiet kid. He’s not a “I want to talk all the time” type of guy. I’d say the last month, I think he’d just like to be done with it, but he’s excited about the top five.”
As for a timeline on a decision, that’s up in the air. If an announcement comes in the near future, it will be because he’s ready to focus his time and energy on basketball, and basketball only.
“I really don’t know. I know if it were up to his dad, he’s tired of seeing him tired all the time and think about it all the time,” Boston said. “His dad wants him to go ahead and commit. His mom wants him to think about it just a little bit longer. He said way back when that he was going to wait till after basketball season so he can concentrate on just basketball, but I honestly don’t know if he’ll do that anymore. There really isn’t a timeline that I know of yet.
“If he commits early, you know it’s because he’s gotten tired of the process and wants to be done with all that.”