September-October 2015 | STILL ON POINT

Professional basketball player Andre Collins
STILL ON POINTSTILL ON POINTAn NCAA champion with the University of Maryland, Collins hails from Crisfield.STILL ON POINT

IN PROFILE

STILL ON POINT

Andre Collins has an NCAA national championship ring and nine successful seasons under his belt as a pro in Europe. Yet, the Crisfield native has much more to prove — to his supporters, his doubters and himself.

Written By: Jonathan Westman | Photographer: GRANT L. GURSKY

Crisfield native Andre Collins was a decorated high school basketball star — leading the Crabbers to the state championship his senior season while being named a prep All-American and the Eastern Shore’s Player of the Year. 
After a year as the starting point guard at Hargrove Military Academy, it was on to his dream school, the University of Maryland, to play for their legendary head coach, Gary Williams. Although the Terrapins won the national championship his freshman year, Andre struggled to find playing time in Williams’ system behind the likes of Juan Dixon and Steve Blake. Even after those players moved on to the NBA, Collins, widely regarded as a future NBA talent himself, never got the opportunity to showcase his abilities. Many have speculated politics, more than basketball, played a role in these decisions. He will forever be linked to Maryland history, however, having scored the last-ever three-pointer at the famed Cole Field House.

Yearning for the opportunity to demonstrate his talents, Collins followed Maryland assistant coach Jimmy Patsos to Loyola for the chance to play. After sitting out a year due to the transfer, Andre flourished as the Greyhounds’ point guard — finishing fourth in the entire nation in scoring. Collins was then invited to attend an NBA draft camp, but he petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility. That request was ultimately denied, and he missed the camp as he awaited the ruling.

They say “everything happens for a reason,” and so does Collins, who then went to play in Europe and record nine successful professional seasons overseas. 


CSM: How long is the regular season?
AC: Well, I’m actually playing in two leagues. I’m going to be in the Euro Cup – we travel all over Europe – and I think that’s a guaranteed eight games. You’re put in a group. For example: You’re put in Group A. We play against the same teams in our group, home and away, and the top-two teams will move on to the second round. At the same time, we play in the Belgian league, which is about 32 games and anywhere from 15 to 20 preseason games. Sometimes they have a bye, and you don’t play for two weeks, they’ll throw in a scrimmage game.


In terms of popularity, is basketball the number-two sport, behind soccer?
Probably so. I’d say it’s number two, definitely, in most countries — and number one in some countries. But, I blend in; I’m the average guy’s height. I’m not towering over people, so, unless it’s followers of the game, then I can pretty much go out and about with no issue or problems. But people who are in or know about the basketball community, they know, and maybe they’ll stare or point or ask for an autograph.


What’s the best part about living overseas?
I think it just makes me more well-rounded as a person… experiencing different cultures. And I’m the kind of person who likes to dive all the way in. I was in Italy for seven years, and I’m fluent in Italian; I love their cuisine. It was the best in the world. Their historic places… so I like to really try to learn a lot about culture and try to fit in.


What’s it like to be away for family or so long? How do you guys communicate? 
We FaceTime every day; it’s tough, though. You know, because, when their day is finishing, as far as coming home from daycare and my wife coming home from work, you know, I’m shutting it down, about to go to bed. It’s around midnight to one o’clock in the morning; there’s a six-hour time difference over there. They get home every night about six, and it’s midnight there, and it’s two practices a day, so I’m beat. But, we make it work, but that’s probably the most difficult part about being away. Before I had kids it was super-easy for me, then I had my son and got married… you know, it’s just tough when I leave. I love when they come visit, but it’s tough all over again when they leave, you know, so, it’s difficult.


What’s your favorite food when you’re living abroad compared with here?
That’s a tough one… it’s definitely an Italian dish. It was a pasta with pumpkin in a ragú sauce. Amazing! It’s called cappallacci di zucca.


What routine do you have before a game?
Well, I’m very superstitious. Before home games, I try to eat the same exact meal. And I started doing that over there, actually. 


What is it?
It’s lasagna and salad. I try to make sure I space it out because lasagna is kind of heavy. Eat early and rest the remainder of the day [leading up to the game]. As far as waking up, the day of the game I always shave first thing in the morning. I eat the same breakfast, which is yogurt, and I eat two boiled eggs — yeah, I know I’m weird. I even have routines I do when I’m on the court, to warm up. Every game, when I come out, I make a layup, and then I’ll go to each spot on the right side of the court, from the baseline. I have to make three in a row, then I step out to the corner, three in a row, then I move and do the exact same thing [on the left side of the court]. I say three prayers before the game. Every time I have a free throw, I touch my tattoo here, in a memorial to my grandfather… and that’s about it.


When did those rituals start? All the way back in Crisfield?
Nah [laughs], I’d say it all started once I started playing pro, my rookie year. My grandfather died right after my rookie year, so I started touching the tattoo after that. As far as eating the pasta before the games… that started my rookie year, because  I lived right in the middle of the city, downtown — and there was a great restaurant on the corner and they would cut a slice of lasagna for me. I’d just go home, warm it up in the oven, and it was easy, because I was there by myself, and I’m not a chef [laughs]. I went out and had a great game, so I just stuck with it.


What’s it like living overseas and experiencing different cultures?
It can be good and bad, really. When I was in Italy, it was great because I got to see so much of Italy. I was in the northern region, and I was also in the south, and that’s like night and day. Up north is more comfortable living, and south, you know, the people are more… they’re great people, but it’s a struggle, you know, down south. Southern Italy, everything is just so behind. The last year I played in Italy, I played in Sicily and it was beautiful, but it was like being in a different country. It’s rough living. In Sicily, or in Southern Italy, they have their own rules, basically, because the Mob still exists, but it’s a little bit more discreet. It’s absolutely beautiful, but it’s a different type of living. In Northern Italy, if you have a problem where you’re living, they may come out to fix it the next day. In Southern Italy, they may not come out for two weeks. I also played in Turkey, and it’s the same. 

From a negative standpoint, where I was living in Turkey was about three hours from the Syrian border, and my first day there, there was a car bomb. So that was difficult. But at the same time, I was about an hour-and-a-half flight from Istanbul. Istanbul is amazing. I’ll be playing in Belgium this year — and because it’s a small country, it’s pretty much the same everywhere you go. It’s a pretty nice country; most of the people speak English, and it’s very easy to get around. Their cuisine is probably closer to ours than anywhere else I’ve been.


You made the last three-pointer at Cole. Tell me about that.
Yeah, Gary was actually mad about that.


Why?
It’s funny because I Iistened to my teammates over him. He wanted us to hold the ball. My teammates, like Juan, Blake, those guys were like: “Shoot it, Dre, shoot it!” So what am I supposed to do? I’m in the locker room with these guys every single day, so I took a shot, and it went in. It’s funny cuz the next day I went in the office with something, and I passed Gary — he was coming out of the office, and I was going in — and he was like: “Ah, Dre! The man of the hour! Last shot at Cole!”


Who’s got that ball?
Ah, I don’t know. I think they probably put it on display. Gary’s a cool dude, though. A lot of people ask me all the time if I hate Gary, stuff like that, and I don’t. If you think about it: My freshman year, seniority thing. After that I didn’t really understand, but you know, he was trying to do what I guess he thought was best for the team and, I guess, for his future. So, I don’t have any hard feelings toward Gary.


No regrets?
No. I used to, but I’ve tried to become a little more spiritual and try to understand my purpose. So now I look at it as it just wasn’t in the cards. I have no regrets, just choices. Still blessed, still doing what I love to do. I’m going into my tenth year — though I’ve just recently gotten over the whole Maryland thing. But, it is what it is. I’m okay with the fact that I went to Maryland and held my own with guys who are in the NBA, like Steve Blake, and I know I can play with those guys. I made it difficult for him every day in practice, and he’s had a 13-year career. So, I just made the best of it and used it to get to the next level. 


Editor’s note: Follow Andre Collins as he plays for Mons-Hainaut in Belgium this season on Instagram: Dre_Collins2.


Charn Robinson
Posted On: 9/26/15 9:31 pm
Great Job Andre! Keep Up the Good Work!
Chantel henderson
Posted On: 9/26/15 11:06 am
I love the article. Andre I love you so much, keep doing what you do best. Always been your number 1fan other than ashlynn nd Rome lol. Love you always, Channy
Sharon Wilson
Posted On: 9/24/15 7:34 pm
The article on Andre Collins was "outstanding." He is still doing what he loves. The most important thing is, that he doesn't forget where he came from. Love you Andre and be blessed. Aunt Shorty