‘Worth’ the wait: Returned missionary Collinsworth shines in sophomore season

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Returned missionaries acclimate to the real world and its expectations with varying success.

In his role as men’s basketball team captain and BYU’s do-it-all guy on the court, Kyle Collinsworth, who returned from his mission to Russia this last summer, is adjusting just fine.

Kyle Collinsworth drives towards the basket during Thursday's game against Santa Clara. Photo by Sarah Hill
Kyle Collinsworth drives towards the basket during Thursday’s game against Santa Clara. Photo by Sarah Hill

“Kyle’s effect on our team this year has been every bit as consistent as Tyler had on our year before,” said head coach Dave Rose — referring to Collinsworth’s season stacked up against teammate Tyler Haws’ post-mission campaign last year.

In his own right, Collinsworth has been a force on the court. With the WCC tournament around the corner, the sophomore ranks third in the conference in rebounds, steals and assists. Not a true big man, Collinsworth fights rebounds away from bigger players. This season, he’s racked up five double-doubles. The Provo native averages 14.3 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game.

Beginning the season as a starting small forward, Collinsworth’s ball handling and passing ability contributed to a smooth transition to starting point guard. As point guard, Collinsworth is a matchup nightmare — positioning his 6-foot, 6-inch, 215-pound frame against smaller defenders.

Atypical of guards, Collinsworth’s Achilles’ heel is his free-throw shooting. He’s not a guard who will knock down long shots and cash in from the line. He’s a guard who will beat defenders at the top of the key and finish with two hands at the rim. Often his assists involve him breaking to the hoop and dishing to an open shooter on the outside.

Tied with Haws, Collinsworth leads the team in time on the court with 33.9 minutes per game. Returned missionaries aren’t always placed in such big roles upon returning home. The quick turnaround from Haws last year and Collinsworth this year has impressed their head coach.

“Usually, returned missionaries come back and they kind of fit into the system and their impact is later,” Rose said. “Both of these players have had an immediate impact.”

Collinsworth credits Haws for helping him transition back to competitive basketball.

“Ty and I are getting closer in our relationship,” he said. “He tells me to listen to my body and be smart. It’s been great advice.”

In assist-like fashion, Haws dishes it right back to Collinsworth.

“He’s done a really good job coming back from his mission and getting in shape,” Haws said. “You’ve got to give all the credit to him.”

While Haws has received much attention for his incredible play this year, Collinsworth’s improved play has helped BYU overcome losses this year. After a four-game losing streak for the Cougars from Dec. 14 to Dec. 30, Collinsworth heroically responded with 16.8 points per game and 5.2 assists per game in five straight wins for BYU. His play launched BYU back into NCAA tournament talk.

Teammate Anson Winder praised Collinsworth’s leadership.

“Just his leadership overall; we all lean on him to lead our team, and he is a great leader and a great player,” Winder said. “We get behind him every game, and he has led us many times.”

With an important end of season upcoming stretch, Collinsworth’s play will figure in to BYU’s finish and potential NCAA tournament position. As teams stress themselves with silencing Haws, the returned missionary’s leadership and play on the court are paramount for the Cougars.

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