John Collins III was born September 23, 1997 in Layton, Utah to parents both serving in the military, John Collins Jr. and Lyria Collins. John spent the next couple of years pin-balling from military base to military base as his parents traveled from Guam to Turkey and then to Washington state. John’s mom and dad eventually divorced and John stayed with his mother who through strict rules and loving attention to detail helped raise John into a great young man.
John took Wake Forest by storm in 2015 but really sprouted in his sophomore campaign. John averaged 19.2 PPG along with 9.8 RPG on 62% FG% to take home the ACC Most Improved Player award for the 2016-17 season and was named to the all-ACC-first-team.
Collins entered the 2017 NBA draft and was expected to be a top-10 pick by many major media outlets but instead fell to the 19th spot where the Atlanta Hawks quickly snatched him up. John’s mom Lyria Rissing-Collins (who can be found on Twitter here) recently sat down to talk with me about her son and what life was like growing up for John Collins.
Q: Growing up, did you encourage John to play basketball or did the love for the game just come naturally to him?
A: “Well, I bought him his first “Baby Easter Basket" with a basketball in it at 1.5 years old, he picked it up and the rest was history. He took it everywhere with him. Then at 5 years old, out of the blue, he told me that when he grew up he was going to go on to play NCAA basketball and then go to the NBA! I asked him if he was serious and he said, ‘Yes.’”
Q: Was there ever a time that John thought about giving up basketball?
A: “Never a time! Never, ever!”
Q: When John was younger growing up from military base to military base, was he ever upset when you guys had to move?
A: “No! The kid was a rare breed. Always looked for the next travel adventure and move! He loves traveling overseas and loves nice hotels with room service; especially room service.”
Q: What was the biggest selling point at Wake Forest for your son? Coaches, facilities, etc.
A: “For him, getting a chance to be coached by a big man coach and legend like Danny Manning. For me, it was Randolph Childress and his recruitment style, the safety and location of Wake Forest, a top-notch school when it comes education, and he would be away from home so he could learn to spread his wings independent of me and that which was a familiar environment.”
Q: When John has a decision to make, does he ever consult you? Does he lean on you for guidance?
A: “Yes, all the time in the past, but now he's become good at decision making himself! I raised him too well, I think. He's become really good at deciding for himself. I tend to think there's a voice going off in his head asking him ‘what would your mother do or think?’ He will usually back fill me, but if it's a major life changing decision, I'm sure he would consult me.”
Q: Where did John’s height and wingspan come from?
A: “From me! Boys get their height from their moms and I'm 72" or 6 feet tall. It's all his mama!”
Q: Do you think coming from a military background helped improve John’s drive and motivation to work hard every time he’s out on the floor?
A: “No, I think it helped him with his good discipline and taking orders along with his ability to interact with various people, their culture, background, and be accepting of everyone. My strict upbringing, nurturing, humility and encouragement motivated him to give his all.”
Q: Were there any players growing up that John idolized or modeled his game after?
A: “No. He always wanted his own style but loves, loves Kobe Bryant!”
Q: What about former Demon Deacon great Tim Duncan?
A: “I love Kobe myself too. Tim Duncan was born and raised on the same island as I was in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The question is silly, of course we love Timmy! That's automatic, not even worthy of discussion.”
Q: How would you best describe John off the floor and do Hawks fans have any reason to worry about misconduct off the court?
A: “Never a reason to worry. Never have ever had a problem with bad behavior and I wouldn't allow it! His best trait is humility and being unselfish!”
Q: What is John’s biggest food weakness and biggest weakness overall?
A: “He does not show any weaknesses. He is his own worst critic though. His go-to foods are Double Stuffed Oreos and bone-in Ribeye steaks or NY Strip steaks. He can eat steak at every meal, which is my fault!”
Q: What do you think the ceiling is for John Collins?
A: “John is a perfectionist when it comes to basketball. Whatever his ceiling is he'll try to break it, skill-wise. He's a very coachable kid who's accepting of constructive criticism to get better.”
John Collins has instantly become a fan favorite over the summer after Hawks fans watched some of his high-flying dunks in the Summer League and John looks to be a major part of the Hawks retool. John is a rare mix of brute athleticism with touch around the rim and the ability to switch on defense.
Defense will be a major building block for John over time as Coach Bud is a huge stickler on that end of the floor. The future is most certainly bright and it only gets brighter every time someone like John comes along.
Perhaps the Hawks have found their next great big man, only time will tell.
Also a very special thanks to Lyria Rissing-Collins for taking time out of her schedule to talk with me.