Junior point guard Anthony Collins has been called the orchestrator of the Bulls’ offense and one of the leaders of a team with five freshmen.
But lately, Collins has not been able to contribute on the court due to a nagging knee injury that has flared up from his off-season surgery.
Collins had a bursa sac removed from his knee during the offseason and the recovery time was not supposed to overlap into the regular season. But it didn’t go as planned and Collins missed the first two games of the season. After playing in only eight games, he aggravated the injury to the point where he had to sit out again.
USF (9-6, 0-2) was on a four-game winning streak starting with a two-point win at George Mason in December with Collins on the court as he totaled five assists and a pair of steals in his first win back after taking two losses in his first two starts.
Since the injury re-emerged, leaving him out of the lineup at Mississippi State, the team has amassed a 1-4 record. USF coach Stan Heath acknowledged Collins’ absence has been difficult on the Bulls.
“It’s been tough,” Heath said. “He’s an intricate part of our team. Without him, it has put everyone one position over from where you want them to be.”
The player who has been forced to adapt the most since Collins took to the bench is junior guard Corey Allen Jr. The junior college transfer played as the shooting guard who is relied on to create shots and score. With Collins out of the lineup, Allen Jr. has to play the point and look to make plays for his teammates rather than himself. Allen Jr. said the change in play style hasn’t been as difficult as some may think.
“It’s just the transition of getting everyone involved,” he said.
Allen Jr. has since done his job at filling the void, helping the Bulls to open the season 4-0 where he was a played a critical role in the offense.
Still, even Allen Jr. admits it isn’t the same without the energy and scoring of Collins.
“He’s a key part of what we’re trying to do this year,” Allen Jr. said. “Hopefully he comes back.”
USF has averaged 15.2 turnovers during the past five games because the team can’t get the “easy plays” it used to with Collins on the court, Heath said. He also said the six to seven assists Collins would provide is something they miss as well.
While Collins cannot contribute on the court for the team, he said he’s been doing his best to help the team by pointing out things to focus on with his view from the sidelines.
“I try to help as much as I can just by telling them what I see out there,” he said. “It’s different when you’re actually playing and when you’re watching so I try to help as much as I can.”
Collins’ return date is still up in the air, but he was scheduled to be re-evaluated on his injury at 5 p.m. Monday evening. Results have not yet been released. Since Collins’ return is now out of his hands, he seemed cautiously optimistic regarding the potential update of when he’ll be back on the hardwood. It’s all about positivity, he said.
“I’m not nervous,” Collins said. “I’m just going to keep a smile on my face and keep rehabbing every day. You don’t want negative energy around.”
With or without Collins in the lineup, the Bulls will travel to Temple for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff where the Bulls will try for their 10th win of the season and first win in the American Athletic Conference.