Five-star forward Daimion Collins is one of the most tenacious defenders and pure athletes in the class of 2021, which explains why he has become one Kentucky’s top recruiting targets in recent months.
Earning an offer from the program back on August 26, Kentucky has emerged as legitimate option for the 6’10” forward out of Atlanta, TX, joining four other finalists in Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas.
Just how serious is the five-star prospect about the Wildcats?
KSR sat down with his coach at Atlanta High School, Jarrod Boston, to break down Collins’ game, recruitment, and where things stand with Kentucky.
How would you describe Daimion’s game? What would be your best scouting report for him as his coach?
His game, the best thing I can say about him is that he’s explosive. He just, he does some things that’ll have you shaking your head saying, “How did he do that?” It’s amazing watching his growth, really from the last two or three years, it’s amazing how good he’s gotten. He’s long, long-armed. What’s strange is, usually when you get the real tall kids – he’s about 6’10” – they don’t have the explosive jumping ability. He’s got like a 40- or 45-inch vertical, I think. He’s just so athletic and so explosive. I’d also say his game is in the baby stages, I think that’s why people are so excited about him. You see so much potential for growth, it’s unbelievable.
How much are you guys working on and emphasizing versatility and being an inside-out post player?
He’s not going to grow up to be the big wide-body, post-up guy, and you don’t really see that in the NBA and college all that much anymore, anyway. He wanted to be outside a little bit, and I’ve had to talk to him, say, “Hey, let’s go inside a little bit” because he’s so good in there too. But we’re going to turn him loose, he’s kind of the a trail man, a four type. He’ll be setting screens and shooting threes, but hopefully he’ll be slipping inside a whole bunch. We see a lot of zones with the people we play. He’ll be slipping inside and doing some stuff in there, but he’s really expanded his game. This summer during quarantine, he really worked a lot with his AAU bunch, and that’s where he really worked on his outside game. He’s gotten a lot better, much more consistent stroke, I’ve noticed it in practice.
Is there a player comparison you can think of for him? Or someone he models his game after?
I hate to throw this guy out there, but in a way, he’s kind of like Kevin Durant for us. Doesn’t shoot it as well, but in the sense that he’s a defender on top of [his offensive abilities]. He kind of has the same look on the floor as a KD. But in terms of a defensive player, there really hasn’t been one I’ve seen lately that’s like him. He’s just unbelievable. When he puts a little more weight on and can handle the banging, it’s gonna be scary. Right now, he’s a D1 defender, no doubt.
I hate to say Durant because he doesn’t have the same offensive game, but he has the defensive game, so that’s the trade-off.
If you’re the opposing coach looking to slow him down, what’s your scouting report there?
The night before, before I go to bed, I’m gonna play really hard. Around here, there is nobody that can really slow him down. People that have given us trouble – it’s going to be harder this year because we’re going to be more experienced – one person has held him, and then when he gets the ball, they send two, three, sometimes even four guys running at him, trying to make him give it up. He’s making a lot better decisions this year, so that’ll help us in the long run. I would just try to send people at him and make him take outside shots, hope he misses. That’s really the only thing.
He’s ranked as high as No. 10 in the country, one of the top players at his position. Do you think he’s ranked accurately? What do you think his ceiling is in terms of ranking and overall ability at the college level?
It’s funny because I ask college coaches their thoughts [on his potential] because in 27 years of coaching, I’ve never had an inside Division I prospect. I’ve actually never really had a D1 prospect, to be honest with you. I ask them, “Why are you so attracted to him?” They say, “Defense first. He’s long, athletic and [great] on defense.” His ceiling is so high, and that’s what really attracts colleges. A lot of these guys you watch, you see them on highlights, you can tell they put a lot of time in their games, they’re muscled up, but their ceilings aren’t as high or they’re at their ceiling. His ceiling is just out of this world, it’s unreal. He hasn’t even come close, to me, touching what he can be. That’s the biggest thing.
What was an average night for him stat-wise last year and what are your expectations of him this year?
He’ll probably average a few more points, he averaged about 24 per game last year. I think all of his averages are going to go up, and it’ll make us a better team. Four starters are coming back, including him. He could probably average 30 points a game this year, to be honest with you, and maybe 15 rebounds. Last year I think it was 25 points, 12 or 13 rebounds, and then seven blocks a game. He came close to a triple-double, with the third being blocks. He could easily average ten blocks a game.
A couple years ago, a guy asked me, “Hey coach, did you do stats today?” I said, “No, I really didn’t.” He said, “Did you know Collins blocked ten shots in the fourth quarter against us?” I was like, “Wow, I did not know that.”
He has the ability for us to just change the game. That’s what I’m telling people, I’m gonna have to actually start coaching defense next year. We just push everything to the middle and he just blocks shots.
Personality-wise, what is Daimion like off the court? What does he like to do outside of basketball?
What’s strange about him, these top guys are dogs. They’re mean and get after you. And I’m not saying he’s not – he can be – but he’s a really nice and sweet kid. He’s really shy and unassuming. He’s not going to talk a whole lot, just a good ole country boy, to be honest with you. I kind of like that. There’s not any attitude. He’s just a really good kid. It’s strange because you see those high-major kids. If he was the alpha male, dog, mean guy, he might be the No. 1 ranked kid.
How do you think his personality would fit in at a school like Kentucky?
I think he’d definitely work there. I’m not saying he can’t develop into a leader type of guy, he’s a smart kid and a good kid. He will learn from all that stuff. He’s also good at taking commands too, and sometimes you need those players to [match] with the alphas. He listens. I think he’d fit in.
He recently cut his list down to Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Texas Tech. How has the recruiting process been for him and what kind of role have you played in that?
I’ll be honest with you, he asked if he could put his top five [list] out there, and it was during practice time. I said, “Do you have a favorite right now?” I was being nosey. He said, “No, all five are right there on the same level.” So there is no early favorite, no early leader in the clubhouse. He hasn’t made up his mind.
My role is, whatever he wants to talk about, he’ll talk to me about it. His mom and his dad are really good people, they have been guiding him through this thing. They won’t be making this decision for him, he’s going to make it himself. But mom and dad are big with it, and I’m close with mom and dad. I taught his mom and coached his dad, so they trust me with him.
It’s been hard. I’ll be honest with you, here within the last month, he’s told me about how all the meetings and Zoom meetings, phone calls, it’s getting to be a little much. He’s getting tired of that stuff. I think that’s why he cut it down to five because he got tired of so many people trying to call. One day he called me, we usually meet at about 8 o’clock and I’ll open the gym, he’ll work out some nights. He was on a Zoom meeting from about 8 to 9:30 p.m., I think it was Oklahoma. He shook his head afterward and apologized, I said, “It’s all right, you can stay up here as long as you want to.” But yeah, it’s just wearing on him all the meetings, because he’s a quiet kid. He’s not a “I want to talk all the time” type of guy. I’d say the last month, I think he’d just like to be done with it, but he’s excited about the top five.
With proximity, it’d probably be better if he was closer, but he knows schools like Kansas and Kentucky, when you start talking about those schools, you can do something really special after that. That’s a big draw on that.
What do you know of Kentucky’s pitch to him?
It’s the greatest pitch ever: “You come here, and we’ll give you the chance to play in the NBA.” I’m not saying they’re even saying that, but he knows. We sat down and talked when he got the offer, he was really excited, came in smiling in my office. I said, “You have to seriously think about this. What’s your end goal? What do you want to do in life?” He wants to play in the NBA, I’ll be honest with you. He wants to get a shot. I said, “Well, you realize if you go to Kentucky, you will get a shot. You’ll at least get looked at and have the resources to get looked at.” It’s all up to how hard he’s willing to work, what he’s willing to do. That’s Kentucky’s allure, along with Kansas too. And I’d say that’s really all of the schools [on his list], but especially Kentucky.
You know you’ve got that network of guys. You watch the NBA Finals and it’s Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky. In the bubble, there’s Kentucky everywhere, and they’re showing out. He knows. It’s a big draw.
How much do you guys talk about the NBA and the Finals with him? How much does he pay attention to the success of guys like Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo?
He watches a little bit of the Finals, but it’s kind of strange, he doesn’t watch a whole lot of basketball. He’ll watch it if it’s on and knows it’s on, but he doesn’t seek it out too much. He really likes working on his game and doing that a little more. We talk a little bit about it, but he knows the network he’s going to come into if he picks Kentucky, and that excites him.
That right there, Anthony Davis. Thank you! There you go, that’s the name. That’s what I was looking for with him. Defensively, putting on a little weight, he could be really akin to Davis. I’m not saying he’ll ever be that good, but potentially, he could be. More than Kevin Durant, more like an Anthony Davis.
I just put too much pressure on him, huh? [Laughs] Maybe I should take that back.
Outside of Kentucky, Oklahoma is seen as another top contender, specifically with his good friend Bijan Cortes being committed there. What has he said about that program?
Oklahoma is relatively close to home, and him and Bijan spent a lot of time together this summer. They work out together and he spent a lot of nights over at Bijan’s house during the week. They’re really tight. He knows the other kid that just committed, CJ Noland from Waxahachie, they’re really close to him. The kids, the program, and Lon Kruger, he’s like a dad type of guy, he really likes him. Those are the draws with Oklahoma.
And Texas, there were rumblings that he was ready to jump on a commitment there back in August before Jai Lucas left. What do you know about his relationship with the Texas staff and their chances in his recruitment?
He loves Shaka Smart. Which, I don’t know, I hope he’s going to be there for a while, but he loves Shaka Smart. Absolutely loves Shaka Smart.
Do you have a feel for a timeline on his decision?
I really don’t know. I know if it were up to his dad, he’s tired of seeing him tired all the time and think about it all the time. His dad wants him to go ahead and commit. His mom wants him to think about it just a little bit longer. He said way back when that he was going to wait till after basketball season so he can concentrate on just basketball, but I honestly don’t know if he’ll do that anymore. There really isn’t a timeline that I know of yet. If he commits early, you know it’s because he’s gotten tired of the process and wants to be done with all that.
No matter which school lands him, what is the one thing that fanbase should be looking forward to the most about Daimion?
Basketball-wise, a whole lot of blocked shots, a whole lot of dunks, and a whole lot of alley-oops. I say this to people who have asked me, he is a prototypical NBA stretch four they talk about. He comes out for screens, rolls, screens, pops out to the three-point line. His range has extended out a few feet past the three-point line now. You’re getting a future potential NBA prospect, that’s what you’re getting. He’s a really exciting player to watch.
My dad was a basketball coach, and he told me, “Everybody ought to be able to coach a really, really good player sometime in their lives.” I’m getting to do that right now.
We’ve gone from 11 wins as a freshman, 31 as a sophomore, and 30 last year. We’re hoping for a bunch more this year, too.