On the bench with Collin Dennis

Not since the emergence of point guard Reggie Kohn has the USF men’s basketball team had such an influential and essential freshman starter. Though his name isn’t as commonplace as Kohn’s, Collin Dennis is well on his way to becoming widely known both around campus and by opposing teams.

In only 21 games — he has started in five — Dennis has become the fourth-leading scorer on the team with 154 points and a season- and career-high 25 points against UAB on Jan. 29. The Texas native has also helped the Bulls double their conference total from the 2003-04 season, including going 9-for-10 from the free-throw line against ECU on Jan. 5.

Recently, Oracle Sport Editor Mike Camunas sat down with the 19-year-old point guard to get his take on things.

Oracle: Before we get started, I was told to ask you what happened before Midnight (Mania on Oct. 15)?

Dennis: You talking about that whole skit we did?

O: Sure am.

CD: We did that little skit thing, where we dressed up like little girls, and they ended up taking pictures of us, so we’ve got a couple pictures in the back that no one has ever seen yet.

O: That’s too bad. I was just about to ask you if I could have one for the paper.

CD: Nah, we definitely have to keep those confidential. They are going (to) hurt my game. Definitely hurt my game.

O: You’re pretty new here at USF, what have you learned so far as a freshman?

CD: Time management. That really woke me up. Between basketball, studying, sleep. That’s the thing I love now, to sleep. I count my hours of sleep. I’d never done that before. Time management is the biggest thing I’ve learned.

O: Any of your teammates give you a hard time because you’re a rookie?

CD: Nah, not too much. I mean, if I mess up, they are going (to) get on me. But, you know, its still that I’m trying to come in and learn and prove myself that I can play at this level.

O: You recently became the starter on this team, and on Saturday at Louisville you played in front of more than 19,000 people. What did that make you feel like?

CD: I wouldn’t say I was really nervous, but I’ll say I had a little butterflies. You know, I grew up watching them on TV, so it was a very good experience to play against them. I just wish we could’ve come out with the win.

O: Do you ever think that USF could have that many people in the Sun Dome?

CD: I hope so. I hope the fans come out. But we have good fans here, and as I said, it all starts with us. The more we win, the more people will come and support us. But yeah, it’d be nice to get 19,000 in this arena. If it could hold it.

O: Who’s your hero?

CD: I’d have to say my mom. Because she was the mommy and the daddy and she didn’t have to be. She was the one who raised me, who whooped me, taught me all the first things. She was really my inspirational figure when I was growing up.

O: Is she the one who taught you how to play basketball?

CD: Nah, she really wasn’t too good at the basketball, she left that up to the boys. She didn’t really help me there, but she always supported me and went to the games and cheered and I love her for that.

O: What’s a better college basketball movie: Hoosiers or Blue Chips?

CD: I’m going to definitely have to go with Blue Chips because of my boy Shaq. He can’t act all that great, but you know, I feel the love. I feel the love.

O: Speaking of movies, if they made a movie of your life, who plays Collin Dennis?

CD: Oh, what’s that guy’s name? Mike Epps from Next Friday. I’d say Mike would be pretty good on me. I’m pretty goofy on the sidelines and I’d say Mike Epps would pretty much be like me.

O: What’s your least favorite part about practice?

CD: I want to say getting in trouble, but it would probably be the conditioning. I hate it. I can do it, but I hate it.

O: Talk about the women’s (basketball team) here a little bit. What do you think of their play and their record-setting year?

CD: They are playing real good. I wish we could be up there, breaking records too. But I really like or enjoy watching them play. I love college basketball and to watch our girls play like they are, I really like it. You know, I’m a fan too. I come out and support them just like they come out and support us, so you know I’m just returning the favor.

O: Is there any player on the women’s team that you like to take one-on-one?

CD: I want to get Jessica (Dickson). She’s a little superstar in my mind. I want to go up against Jessica.

O: She’s got a wicked outside shot. You going to be able to defend that?

CD: She might get me with that shot. But yeah, in all honesty, I’d like to play against her. She (is) a really good player. We have a lot of respect for each other and they are doing it right now. They might get their first tournament berth.

O: I saw you watching them play the other day. You wouldn’t happen to have the hots for any of the ladies on the team?

CD: (Laughs) I ain’t looking at the girls like that. I chill with them, I’d kick with them, I’m pretty good friends with a couple of them, but basically I’m trying to stay free. I got to stay free.

O: You got to stay free? So do you have to tell the ladies around campus, “No, I can’t. I got to go play basketball. Coach (Robert) McCullum won’t let me go out?”

CD: Yeah, I use that sometimes. Sometimes that gets you out of trouble, when you say, “Yeah, coach said we got practice and I don’t have any time for girls.”

O: Even if a little hottie comes up to you in class and says she saw you playing last night and wants to get to know you?

CD: As long as they don’t get me in trouble. (Laughs) If they don’t get me in trouble, I’m doing it. As long as I don’t get in trouble, I’m all for it.

O: And lastly, if you couldn’t play basketball, what else would you do?

CD: If I could play basketball, I’d probably want to coach it. I love basketball so much. That’s all I do. I go home and watch basketball. I sleep basketball everyday. I’d have to be somewhere where I’d be involved in it. I’d be a manager; I don’t care. I don’t care. As long as I’m in basketball, I’m cool.