Collison Returns for Jersey Retirement

Collison Returns for Jersey Retirement

LAWRENCE--From the time he was a freshman at Kansas, practicing in Allen Fieldhouse, Nick Collison would catch himself gazing into the big barn's south rafters, where the jerseys of so many legendary Jayhawk players hang.

Chamberlain. Lovellette. Manning. You know the drill, know who's up there. And now Nick Collison's number 4 jersey joins those other honorees, thanks to a brilliant four-year career during which he last season as a senior earned consensus first-team All-American honors and was also named the National Player of the Year by the NABC.

Tuesday night, Collison, a rookie with the NBA's Seattle Supersonics who is recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery, returned to the Phog and was honored at halftime of the nationally-televised KU-Michigan State game. The Iowa Falls, Iowa, native, who averaged team-highs of 18.5 points and 10 rebounds a game last season in leading KU to a 30-8 record and the national title game, left Mount Oread as the school's second all-time leading scorer (2,097 points), third all-time leading rebounder (1,143 boards) and second all-time leading shot-blocker (243 rejections).

Before tipoff, he chatted with media about what it meant to see his jersey hang in such eminent company in KU's hallowed hoops hall.

"I thought about it quite a bit," he said. "Every day in practice, you'd see those names, those jerseys up there. I always thought it would be something that would really be cool some day because it's up there forever.   I definitely thought about it a lot, especially in the last year when I felt like I had a chance to get it done.

"It's an unbelievable honor. Just to be recognized in any way by this university and the basketball program is something I'll always be proud of. It's permanent. It's up there forever. Some day, other players will see my name up there, so it means a lot."

Six weeks ago, New York Giants team physician Russell Warren--the same surgeon who repaired KU junior Wayne Simien's right shoulder last March--operated on Collison's left wing. He'll require another surgery on his right shoulder once the left one has healed fully enough to allow him to perform everyday tasks on that side.

"My right shoulder is fine--I haven't had anything done to that one yet," he said. "My left one, I'm six weeks today after surgery. It's coming along. I got out of the sling about three weeks ago. It's coming along. It takes time, though."

Is he going nuts not playing?

"Yeah, but not as bad as I thought it would be," he said. "I'm just concentrating on rehab and doing everything I can to get back. But it does get a little frustrating, definitely, at times."

Collison said that when it became obvious his shoulders would require the knife, he talked with Simien. The 6-9, 255-pound Leavenworth product, whose operation and subsequent rehabilitation went extremely well, was shooting the ball again about two months after the surgery, and began playing again by late summer.

"I called him when I knew I had to have surgery and we talked about it briefly," Collison said. "He said just the time frame--it's a long time and you have to have a lot of patience."

Collison, who said he would watch both Kansas and the Roy Williams-coached North Carolina closely this season, said he paid particularly close attention to how Simien rebounded from an awkward tumble to the floor after taking a hard foul in KU's season-opening win over Chattanooga last Friday night.

"I saw Wayne's fall in that game and I felt pretty confident that (Dr. Warren) did a good job because that thing got stressed about as hard as it could get stressed," he said. "I think he did a good job."

So far, Collison said, his new, high-paying job in the NBA hasn't been much fun. Of course, he's sidelined for now--and that's extraordinarily tough on a guy who was an ironman in his prep and collegiate careers.

"Honestly it's pretty boring for me because I go in, watch practice, do my rehab and then go home and watch TV or walk around the city," Collison said. "I haven't traveled yet. I think I might travel on the next trip, but they haven't really told me what they were going to do. Really it's just a lot of sitting around and trying to get healthy….

"I'll probably be 100 percent on both sides around June or July. But I'll probably get the work done on my right shoulder in about six weeks. I have to wait and see though, when I can use my left shoulder to just do everyday things. Right now, if I did my right shoulder I'd have a tough time doing anything. I can move my left but I can't put weight on it or anything."

Collison said he does keep up with his former college teammates and his former college coach.

"I saw both Carolina and KU play. I'll watch them all year," he said. "The guys here, I think it'll take a while for them to buy into things. There's a hundred different ways to do things and they can all be correct, the key is just for guys to buy into it. I think with a coaching change that's hard especially because they've had such success. They definitely have the talent to be very good. It might just take some time. But I think they're pretty good right now.

"And for coach Williams, he's doing a great job, too. I saw them play last night (a rout of Davidson) and it looked real familiar, a lot of the same stuff we did…I talked to him two nights ago and again today. He wanted to congratulate me. He said he'd like to be here but it obviously would be a tough thing to happen. So I told him I wouldn't let him come anyway. He sounds like he's doing real well and he likes what they have going on there."

Does Collison miss the college game?

"I do. I miss it a lot," he said. "It's a lot of fun, man, and you don't really realize how much until you leave. The NBA is great. I mean, the NBA is a great lifestyle, but it's just a lot of fun here because you're playing with guys who are great friends of yours and there's a lot more excitement around the games. Plus I was healthy here, too. Once I start playing it might be better in the NBA.

"But I miss college a lot."

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