Consider the last few months of news regarding Arizona State athletics.
There was that bombshell recruiting scandal with the football program. Several coaches were fired. The quarterback transferred. Many others did too.
Exalted softball head coach Trisha Ford announced her departure for the same role at Texas A&M. Many of her players, including some of the critical building blocks of the near future, entered into the transfer portal.
The baseball team missed the postseason for only the fourth time since 2000 in the first year with Willie Bloomquist. Tim McCormack, the women’s lacrosse coach who won back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year Awards, left for Johns Hopkins.
At times, it has felt like the entire athletic domain at Arizona State has been radioactive. Conventional wisdom would indicate that few other Division I schools have been affected more for the worse than the advent of the transfer portal and NIL.
Somewhere in this traffic jam of athletes leaving Tempe, there are a few success stories of players on the other side of the highway, entering the confines of Sun Devil athletics.
And if Frankie Collins can expand on his precocious first season of college basketball at Michigan this coming winter with Arizona State, there may be no better evidence that Tempe can still be a destination for impact athletes.
Collins’ commitment to continue his basketball career with the Sun Devils is another example that recruiting never truly ceases in this new era of free transfer. Sun Devil head coach Bobby Hurley has been after Collins since he was a dynamite four-star recruit out of Coronado High School in Henderson, Nevada.
After Collins announced his decision to enter the portal, Hurley, who attacks recruiting the same way he did opposing defenses during a legendary career at Duke, was going to go all-out to not miss a second time.
He didn’t. And in bringing Collins over from Michigan, Hurley adds something the Sun Devils have missed in recent years: a player with actual experience in the NCAA Tournament.
Collins was a contributor in the Wolverines surprise run to the Sweet 16 in 2022. His season-high 14 points against Colorado State in the first round led a serious Wolverines comeback to extend the season.
His overall numbers are nothing to gawk at. He finished with just 2.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. But his role will almost certainly be expanded with the Sun Devils. Michigan uses their point guards as the primary initiator, but rarely ever the finisher, of a possession. Arizona State under Bobby Hurley has rarely ever put a governor on a guard’s offensive volume.
A quick review of the tape for Collins makes you wonder how Hurley didn’t get him in the first place. If Hurley could construct a point guard of a menu in the fashion of a Chipotle, that guard would come out looking very similar to Collins.
He’s a guy that can float through the air and finish with either hand, at a variety of angles. His shot from distance can improve, but there doesn’t appear to be any major flaws in it. Not everything worked for Arizona State on offense last season, but one thing that did work consistently was drop-off passes from attacking guards to bigs right in the garden spot.
Collins can do that exceptionally well.
The combination of Collins and returning guard DJ Horne should be a formidable offensive punch. Each player brings a certain level of supplementation to the other’s game. Collins can finish in traffic. Horne can shoot over it. At times last season, the Sun Devils were hurt from a lack of spacing with their guards. That will likely improve this coming season. Factor in the entrance of Nevada transfer Devan Cambridge, who brings in his versatility and size to the backcourt, and Arizona State has one of its most diverse guard lineups in the Hurley era.
Hurley was after Collins, the former No. 2 overall player in Nevada, from the jump. Even after Collins connected with Michigan, Hurley never completely threw in the towel, and it paid off when Collins was looking for a new program.
Collins’ commitment to Arizona State is a meaningful one because of how tumultuous these departures throughout the rest of the athletics department have been. Now, it’s up to Hurley to guide Collins into the elite player he was billed as coming out of high school, hopefully restoring Arizona State as a destination for high-end guards in the process.