|LAST HS GAME: UCLA guard Darren Collison, whose career ended in the second round against Villanova, played his final high school game at the 2005Collision All-Star Game. His next stop will be an NBA roster next winter|
The Sun Finally Sets on UCLA's Collison
It's on to the pros for Bruins' point guard
For the first time in four years, the UCLA Bruins basketball program will find out what life will be like without the most consistent floor leaders that it has had in quite some time.
When the final buzzer sounded at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia last week and the glorious NCAA tournament run for the past four years came to an abrupt conclusion, all of the hopes pointed to next year.
But, hey not so fast. Before the UCLA 2009-2010 media guide receives its final edit for print, let us all stand and give a standing ovation to the glue of the Ben Howland era.
The one person and player that Howland feared to lose most was his irreplaceable point guard from Etiwanda High School-Darren Collison.
The skinny kid with the funny slingshot, who many in basketball annals thought was to frail to be a big time point guard but could not ignore his winning statistics.
Howland will receive most of the credit for the Bruins return to glory, three consecutive Final Fours and yet another berth in the NCAA tournament, but imagine where UCLA's program would have been without Darren Collison.
I've always been a big Collison fan, from his days as a high school star and all the way to his final high school game in the annual Collision All-Star game in 2004 when he scored 21 points en route to an MVP performance to lead the Southern Section past the City Section.
The kid left the Bruins' final game, an 89-69 blowout at the hands of the bullies from Villanova, with a busted bottom lip but he is far from a loser.
UCLA has not had a winner like him in a long time and may not get another one like him for a long time.
The Bruins should consider themselves lucky that he stayed for four years, considering that he would have been a lottery pick after his second year in Westwood.
Collison passed on the money, fortune and fame and returned to UCLA to do something that we and many players forget the reason why they were supposed to attend college in the first place.
He will graduate with his degree, something that many former Bruins stars still do not have.
Let the record show that Collison never complained about UCLA or Ben Howland like many of his former players have and played as hard as he could for as long as he could.
He did it with class and dignity. Walt Hazzard should be proud. Tommy Curtis should be proud. Henry Bibby should be delight of the sort that Collison became.
The curtain closed on his Bruin career with 1,639 points, 577 assists (fifth in school history) and more cheers that we can count in this space and much deserved.
I don't know where he will be drafted. I don't know what kind of pro player he will be. I do know that if any team out wants to win you know where to find Darren Collison.
I do know that he knows how to win, has the will to win, the desire to compete and the skills that are elite.
Thanks DC for that glorified cab ride. See you in the league!