🎙 The Jayhawker Podcast | Nick Collison
Episode 26: Nick Collison | July 9, 2020
Nick Collison took Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours, and saw his jersey retired at both the college and professional levels. He was a McDonald’s All-American, collegiate All-American and first round NBA draft pick. He’s second only to Danny Manning when it comes to career scoring at one of college basketball’s most tradition-rich schools.
So, what does all that success come back to for Collison? In a word: consistency. Whether he was consistently great during his time at Kansas, or a consistent leader for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Collison brought the same passion, energy and work ethic every day.
This week on The Jayhawker podcast we catch up with the Jayhawk and Oklahoma City Thunder great and learn what it took to achieve such incredible individual and team success in both college and the pros.
The son of a high school coach, Collison was a self-described “gym-rat” who soared up the recruiting rankings as he grew from 5’11 as an 8th grader to 6’9 by his junior season in high school at Iowa Falls. Though he initially considered Iowa and Iowa State, and Duke made a push late, in the end it was Roy Williams and Kansas that won his commitment.
“At the end of the day, I felt the best about Kansas,” shared Collison. “I was excited to go play in Allen Fieldhouse and Coach (Williams) honestly, recruited me harder than anyone else – even the in-state schools. He was at almost all of my AAU games. The way he talked about my game, I felt like he understood my game.”
Collison combined with Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich (all eventual NBA Lottery picks) to form one of the greatest recruiting classes in KU history and the trio had a special chemistry from day one. Collison and Hinrich were already close being former AAU teammates, and though Gooden and Collison had different backgrounds, the meshed right away too.
“I really got along with Drew a lot. From the first day when we were high school kids till now, we’ve always gotten along so well,” said Collison. “We’re basically the same type of player, playing the same position, coming into school at the same time and yet we’ve always gotten along. There was never any issue on competition or jealousy or anything from either one of us. It was really cool how we were able to form a really solid relationship and still be friends to this day.”
Collison says the threesome leaned on one another to handle the pressures that came with playing for one of college basketball’s premiere programs.
“The demands of playing on a Roy Williams team and the pressures of being a student-athlete (can be a lot),” admitted Collison. “Going to class, having weights, tutoring, these really hard practices, conditioning — it’s a hard thing to go through. It was really cool that we had the three of us going through it together at the same time. We could pick each other up when we needed it. When one of us was down the other two could pick the other one up.”
“The Three Musketeers” went 24-10 in their first season together and made a Sweet 16 in year two. As they entered their upper-classmen years though, expectations were growing and what was about to ensue was just the second back-to-back Final Four runs in KU hoops history.
Gooden was with them for the first run in 2002 – a 33-4 season that ended in a National Semi-final loss to eventual-National Champion Maryland. Then, with Gooden off to the NBA and sharp-shooter Jeff Boschee graduated, Nick and Kirk captained Kansas to another 30-win season that this time went all the way to a Monday night in April, opposite of Syracuse in the National Championship game.
Go inside those two incredible Kansas runs and hear what followed for Collison in a long and very successful NBA career. This week’s episode spotlights a Kansas legend who has won everywhere he’s been and played with some incredible talent at each and every stop. Collison even hit the hardwood with Barack Obama in 2012 in a memorable exchange in which the President suggested OKC needed to send some of Kevin Durant’s shots Nick’s way. That great story and many more can be found in this week’s edition of The Jayhawker.