Daimion Collins’ talent is about as raw as it can come, but his ceiling is still too high up for anyone to see right now.
A 5-star power forward from Atlanta, TX, Collins didn’t have the benefit of playing for a high-level prep school or prestigious basketball academy during his high school years. Instead, he posted video game figures as a senior at Atlanta High School, averaging 35.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 6.2 blocks per outing on a squad that finished the season 19-5. Collins has been a consensus top 35 player for well over a year now and has only continued to rise in the recruiting ranks. 247 Sports’ most recent rankings update bumped Collins up to the No. 10 overall prospect in the class of 2021, his personal high for that outlet. He’s been playing basketball since he was seven but didn’t get into organized basketball until he was 16.
At the Iverson Classic Showcase down in Memphis this past weekend–the lone high school All-American event for the summer–Collins was matched up against (and teamed up with) the best high school seniors from across the country. Despite standing at 6-foot-9, he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb compared to the likes of NBA-ready bodies in Paolo Banchero or Michael Foster, and his impact during the actual All-American game was limited, but Collins has all the makings of one day morphing into a star player.
KSR was in Memphis to cover the weekend’s events and had the opportunity to speak with Collins on a couple of occasions while watching him go through practices, scrimmages, and live-game settings. COVID-19 has robbed fans and media members alike of the possibility to interact with and learn the personalities of these kids, both on and off the hardwood. This was the perfect chance to help shed some light on Collins as he gears up for his freshman season as a Kentucky Wildcat this coming fall.
The first thing you’ll notice about Collins is his slender and lanky frame. He’s a true 6-foot-9–maybe even an inch or two taller–but you might it hard to believe that he’s listed in the 205-210 pound range as some recruiting services have logged in its databases. There isn’t much meat on the bones, but it doesn’t prevent him from showing out as a freakish athlete. Collins can jump high enough to outrebound opposing bigs and defends the rim with timely effectiveness.
Collins was called to participate in the Dunk Contest on Friday night–his first-ever–without any warm-ups or thought put into what dunks he might want to execute. While he ultimately didn’t win, it didn’t bother him that much, if at all. He still sported the same half-smile he had since the moment he walked into the gym. That’s the other thing you’ll quickly notice about Collins: he’s always walking around with a smirk on his face, as if he’s just happy to be living the day.
He’s quiet at first. Not necessarily shy, but keeps to himself; his arms wrapped together behind his back while he talks. During interviews, he flashes his braces with every word he speaks, although his tone is soft. His east Texas accent delicately hums across his lips.
Collins describes himself like most teenagers do: “I’m cool, laid back, funny, like to joke around a lot. I like to keep a positive attitude… [I like to] chill with friends. Where I’m from it’s not a lot of dudes so we chill and mess around.” Collins doesn’t hail from a big city or even a mid-sized town; Atlanta, TX has a population of around 5,500 residents. He grew up a pebbles-throw from the borders of both Arkansas and Louisiana, which helps explain why his favorite dish isn’t pizza or cheeseburgers, rather shrimp alfredo.
“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.”
His mother and grandmother both play a special role in his life (along with his love of shrimp alfredo), and his family was in attendance at the Iverson Classic to help cheer him on. They are a tight-knit group: “That’s why I push so hard, to make sure they’re straight in the long run,” Collins said about his mom and grandmother.
Moving to the city of Lexington, KY, where the population is over 300,000 and the campus plays host to roughly 30,000 students, will surely be a bit of a culture shock to Collins from his small-town home in Texas. Playing in front of 20,000-plus at Rupp Arena is something he’s yet to experience at any point in his life.
“I might be a little nervous,” Collins said, with a bigger smile than usual, about playing at Rupp in the fall. “But I’m just going to tune all of it out and just stay locked in for the game and do what I got to do.”
But it’s not like he hasn’t played against top competition before. Collins participated in the Pangos All-American Festival last fall which featured several of the country’s best high school players, and he was viewed as one of the best overall performers, making the All-Tournament Team in the process. He also attended the Wootten Basketball Camp over the fall, which brings over 150 of the top high school players to one location, and he was part of the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team July minicamp.
Had COVID-19 not knocked out other opportunities to showcase his skills, the unknown surrounding Collins might paint a much clearer picture. He didn’t shine at the Iverson Classic, but don’t let recency bias take over what we’ve already seen.
Block of the year???? pic.twitter.com/vezd7NmmeQ
— Daimion Collins (@CollinsDaimion) December 6, 2020
Collins will arrive on campus at the end of May and is eager to get to work and get to know his new teammates. Even though the person who recruited him to Kentucky in the first place, Joel Justus, is no longer on staff, Collins is excited about the additions of Orlando Antigua and Ron “Chin” Coleman. He said on Friday that bringing those new coaches on board “can help me get to where I want to be.”
Along with his future Wildcat teammate, Bryce Hopkins, the two had been actively recruiting uncommitted 5-star point guard TyTy Washington down in Memphis, trying to coax him into joining them on next season’s roster (Washington announces his decision this Saturday, May 15). Collins and Hopkins were matched up against Washington for the All-American game so they weren’t able to give Kentucky fans a glimpse into the future, but they were still putting in the good word throughout the weekend.
Like most 5-star prospects, Collins has aspirations to make it to the NBA, although he didn’t explicitly say he planned on being a one-and-done prospect.
“The ultimate goal is to go the league,” Collins said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there but that’s the main goal for me. Work hard and see how it goes.”
Don’t expect it to take longer than a year, though. Despite looking a bit out of place at times stacked up against the premier talent in the country, Collins has all the makings of a future lottery pick. Current mock draft projections, even after the Iverson Classic, believe he’s still a top 14 NBA Draft pick in 2022.
Collins is the pure definition of a “work-in-progress” and fans should keep that in mind when he takes the stage as a Kentucky Wildcat. Ups will come with downs, but eventually the former should heavily outweigh the latter. His value as a rim protector will require him to play significant minutes. 6-foot-9 forwards who can run the floor with the ball in their hands and shoot from beyond the arc are hot commodities and Kentucky now has one who can do both.