Kentucky formally introduced two new members of the basketball coaching staff on Saturday morning through Zoom and both of them could hardly contain their excitement.
Orlando Antigua and Ron “Chin” Coleman were brought into the fold earlier this week after lengthy speculation that the pair could be heading to Lexington in what appeared to be a package deal. Their additions came as a result of two previous assistants, Joel Justus and Tony Barbee, moving on to different jobs. Despite gaining two necessary coaches in Antigua and Coleman, the departure of Justus and Barbee played a significant role in the decommitment of 4-star point guard Nolan Hickman, who opted out of his LOI with Kentucky last week.
All signs are pointing to the ‘Cats being able to add another class of 2021 point guard, TyTy Washington, who will make his college decision on May 15, which would help make up for the loss of Hickman and hopefully then some. But what about Kentucky’s other commitments from the same class?
Daimion Collins and Bryce Hopkins have remained committed to Kentucky ever since the coaching staff shuffle and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. Collins, a 5-star power forward ranked as the No. 10 player in the class of 2021, told KSR on Friday at the Iverson Classic that he’s “100 percent committed and ready to go.”
“I know they (Antigua and Coleman) can help me get to where I want to be,” Collins said.
Coach Justus was actually Collins’ main recruiter and the one he communicated with the most before Collins ultimately chose Kentucky. Justus is now the top assistant at Arizona State.
“Coach Joel, he was my recruiter actually,” Collins added. “So me and him had a good connection. He’s really the only one I just talked to because Coach [Calipari] and Coach [Jai Lucas], we’d talk every once in a while but Coach Joel he was my recruiter so we had a good connection.”
All that being said, losing Coach Justus didn’t deter Collins from sticking with Kentucky. Collins is simply trying to improve his game and prepare himself for the next level and he knows the new coaching situation in Lexington will help him reach that goal. Collins added that he has not yet been able to speak with Coach Antigua or Coach Coleman just yet, likely due to his busy schedule at the Iverson Classic, but that he plans to “real soon”.
“I’m really excited to get there because I know–the coaches there and everybody else–I know when I get there they’re going to push me to the best that I can be.”
Saturday afternoon’s Iverson Classic All-American game is the main event of the weekend, but the practices and scrimmages from Thursday and Friday were wildly intense. Collins also participated in Friday night’s Dunk Contest.
Collins is one of the few high-level recruits who burst onto the scene despite playing at a prep school where most of the country’s top talent eventually goes at some point in their high school careers. He’s been attending Atlanta High School down in Texas and putting up insane numbers in the process.
“Me playing where I was it really made me who I am because playing at a big prep school I didn’t get noticed like they did,” Collins said about his high school experience compared to other elite recruits. “So coming from where I come from that made me who I am.”
Against fellow 5-star prospects at the Iverson Classic, Collins thought he performed well, but admitted there is always room for improvement.
“I think I did alright so far. I know I can do better most definitely but I’m just gonna keep working and do better tomorrow,” Collins said on Friday. “Finishing my shots, playing harder on defense, stuff like that.”
Collins added that his two best attributes right now on the floor would be his defense and his ability to finish at the rim. The comparisons to former Kentucky Wildcat star Anthony Davis stay with him wherever he goes, but it’s something he appears to embrace, even though he knows there is a long way to go before becoming the type of All-NBA caliber player that Davis currently is.
“I think it’s close but I know I still got stuff to work on to get there,” Collins said of the comparisons to Davis. “What I’ve really been working on right now is my ball handling and jump shooting. That’s what I’ve been working on since COVID struck so I’ve been going on that hard trying to get that ready before I get [to Kentucky]–and then while I’m there and after.”
Collins will suit up for Team Honor, coached by Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells, for Saturday’s primetime All-American event. The game is scheduled for tipoff around 6 p.m. CT and can be viewed (for a price) through the livestream link here.