The foundations of what makes a kid the player he becomes can be very diverse, though working towards the same goal. Devon Collier is from the Bronx and he learned the game playing on the city playgrounds and at legendary courts such as Dyckman, Rucker Park, and I.S. 8. Playing in New York City taught Collier about competing and earning respect. He was able to combine that with the opportunity play high school ball for legendary coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City. With that foundation in place, Collier spent his college career at Oregon State, finishing up this past season.
Though the team never found great success during his time with the Beavers, Collier was able to develop his game over that time, and now he is ready to begin the process of making his NBA dreams come true. I had the chance to talk to him as he looked back on his college career and looked forward to new opportunities.
This past season, Collier averaged over 13 points and almost 6 rebounds per game, while shooting a fantastic 60.6% from the field. Having had time to reflect on his college career, Collier could see how his game, and his approach to it, changed.
“The biggest change during my time at Oregon State was how the mental side of my game developed,” said Collier. “I felt I already had a head start in this area having played at St. Anthony’s for Coach Hurley. He emphasized that part of the game with us so we would have an advantage.”
His education of the game continued at Oregon State under Coach Craig Robinson. “Coach Robinson had me spending a lot of time learning the game, studying players and plays, and focusing on fundamentals,” Collier said. “I knew that the transition to the next level would require me to combine the mental part of the game with my physical abilities.”
After another tough season at Oregon State, with the Beavers going 16-16 and getting another invitation to the College Basketball Invitational, Collier was ready to take the next step in his career. Already hoping to earn a spot on the Puerto Rico National Team, Collier entered his name in the draft for Puerto Rico’s basketball league, the BSN. He was drafted second overall by the Humacao Chiefs and he made his debut with them earlier this month, scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in just over 10 minutes of play.
The experience has already helped Collier greatly. “The competition, with a lot of ex-NBA players and guys from overseas, makes it a real learning experience,” said Collier. “The game is different from college and you really need to play good defense and give your all on every play.”
Collier’s contract in Puerto Rico allows him time to work out before the draft for NBA teams, and he has an out of he gets an offer to play in the NBA. He will have the first of those workouts this week when he takes part in the group workout for all 30 teams hosted by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Collier already has an idea what teams will expect him to do and why there is interest in him. “I’m a physical player who hustles and can defend in the post or on the perimeter,” Collier explained. “Being able to guard multiple positions allows the team defense to have options such as allowing switches.”
He knows that those strengths will get him in the door, but to stick around, he has some work to do. “I’m really working on every part of my game, looking to improve each day,” said Collier. “I’ve put a lot of time on my shooting and on my defense, especially my lateral movement and staying in front of my man.”
If he gets his opportunity in the NBA, Collier knows that he can help a team right away. “I can come in and be the guy who does all the little things a team needs to win,” Collier said. “I’ll bring my work ethic and do whatever I can to support my teammates.”
Whether his next stop is the NBA or back in Puerto Rico, Collier believes that he can do great things wherever he is. “I’m a team player and will give you my all,” said Collier. “As I continue to grow, I will always bring with me all of the things Coach Hurley taught me at St. Anthony’s.”
I would expect to hear much more about Collier’s game in the next few years as he does grow as a player.
Follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog
Photo: Amanda Cowan | Corvallis Gazette-Times