A year ago at this time most Wake Forest fans did not know much about John Collins and didn’t expect a lot from him early in his Deacon career. That changed rather quickly once he suited up though, as it was evident that he was more advanced offensively than expected to go along with his athletic 6’10” frame. In fact, he scored in double figures in four of his first five games as a Deac, including nationally televised contests in Maui against Indiana and Vanderbilt, while playing less than 20 minutes. This season, however, expectations are much greater for the sophomore from West Palm Beach, Florida. Collins will look to replace some of the stats left behind by departing senior Devin Thomas and, along with Bryant Crawford, is expected to be the go-to guy for Danny Manning in his third campaign in Winston-Salem.
When it was all said and done last season, Collins finished with averages of 7.3 points and 3.9 boards per game. He hit a bit of the freshman wall in ACC play, but did register 16 and 6 against Notre Dame as the season wound down. Looking at the advanced stats from KenPom, JC had the highest offensive rating on the team at 110.3 while only playing 35.7% of the possible minutes. To me, this points to a very favorable 2016-2017 season. With increased minutes, strength, confidence and experience I expect Collins to make a significant jump this season if he is able to control his fouling problem on the defensive end of the floor. Last year he averaged over 7 fouls per 40 minutes played, which obviously limits playing time quite a bit. If he can learn to stay on his feet and play positional defense instead of trying to block everything, he will likely get as many minutes as he can handle.
From Coach Manning’s lineups thus far at Wake, I would expect Collins’ most common frontcourt mate to be Dinos Mitoglou. That gives Wake a post presence in Collins and a stretch PF in Dinos to give both more space to operate. Furthermore, if Wake is able to spread the floor with more shooters (Woods, Arians, Crawford, Childress, Washington, etc), teams will be more hesitant to help off and double team Collins in the post. It will also be interesting to see how often Manning will pair JC with true centers like Doral Moore or Sam Japhet-Mathias. Collins does have the ability to step out and hit the mid-range jumper and the rim protection with two of those guys in the paint has the potential to be very good.
Overall, I am not concerned whatsoever with Collins’ offensive output going into the season. He has nice post moves, dunks everything and shoots around 70% from the charity stripe. Where Wake needs to see the biggest jump for him is on the defensive side and rebounding, as that has the potential to be a problem area for the Deacs. If he can stay out of foul trouble and replace a good portion of the board work of Devin Thomas, then Wake will be better off overall. In my opinion JC certainly has the potential to be an All-ACC player at some point in his career. For Wake to beat analysts’ expectations this season, that may need to happen sooner rather than later.
Don’t forget that your first shot to see the Deacs is this Friday night at 7 in their only exhibition game against Josh Howard’s Piedmont International!