Zach Collins arrived at Gonzaga as one of the highest rated recruits in school history. This is a good and a bad thing in a way. The good thing: Collins is probably a really good player. The potentially bad thing: Collins is going to have the weight of the world in expectations on his shoulders.
So now, time for the best thing about it all: Collins has carried those expectations and tossed them aside like a rag doll as he has terrorized opponents through the first half of the season.
Right off the bat, let’s acknowledge Collins’ line: 10.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in just 16.9 minutes per game. Collins is putting up fantastic numbers for a freshman, but if there wasn’t a logjam of talent ahead of him, he would be putting up numbers the Zags haven’t seen from a big man in quite some time.
Collins’ per 40 minutes stat line: 25.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Much of the reason for his success stems from his effective field goal percentage, which currently stands at an insane 75.4 percent. Presumably, this number isn’t sustainable for the rest of the season. Presumably, we can assume a bit of regression going forward. But until then, let’s revel in how great that number is.
Collins’ 75.4 eFG% is the fifth-highest in the country. His true shooting percentage of 75.2 percent is the third-highest in the country. Zach Collins is shooting better than any other freshman in the country not named Justin Patton from Creighton. Those Kentucky and Duke recruits get a lot of hype, but quietly Collins has put himself in the conversation as one of the best freshmen in the country.
How does he do that? For starters, he runs the floor like he is six feet tall. Look at the focus on gathering this pass from Jordan Mathews and the ability to finish literally right underneath the rim.
Collins’ ability to finish at the rim is powering his success. According to Hoop-Math.com, Collins is shooting 83.7 percent at the rim, and is aware of it. He takes 70.5 percent of his shots at the rim, the highest on the team. He is patient. He gets the ball down low and he makes sure he finds his opening.
If we need to nitpick on anything, we can hit Collins with the exact same criticism you can hit virtually any freshmen in the country with: sometimes he turns the ball over too much and sometimes he commits too many fouls. Collins has taken himself out of the game because of foul trouble a few times, but this kid plays like a freaking senior, and there is nothing to suggest that these two issues will be a problem all season.
And if the Zags have to put up with a few freshmen mistakes along the way, that is perfectly fine. This team has the depth to absorb a couple of brain farts, and Collins doesn’t commit them too often.
Most importantly, in a team full of necessary pieces for success, Collins leads that charge. His poise, focus, maturity and energy are all readily apparent when he is on and off the court. He has fully bought into the Gonzaga way and both Collins and the Zags are visibly better for it.