Archives For Jeremy Johnson

By Jeremy Johnson

With less than a week before his regular season NBA debut, Hawks’ rookie John Collins took a step back into the past as he again found himself in a high school gym.

It wasn’t Cardinal Newman High School, where Collins gained the attention that attracted the Wake Forest coaching staff. Collins entertained a crowd of basketball players, students and parents at Athens Academy in Athens, Ga. Collins partnered with the BMW of Athens to get the opportunity to show his face in his community.

“It’s cool when I came to Atlanta, I partnered with Athens BMW,” Collins said. “For me to come out here and do this is pretty cool to see so many kids out here. I know it’s not the Atlanta Metro or greater Atlanta area, but it’s definitely cool to get out here and get my face out here with the kids in the community.”

Smiles and laughs were abundant as Collins played 5 on 1 scrimmages with students, signed autographs and even threw down a thunderous dunk in which Collins leaped over three youngsters and snagged an alley-oop from another.

Being back in a high school gym brought back some memories for Collins and he admits he misses the old high school days.

“It was really about two years ago, I was graduating high school and I moved on to college and now I’m actually in the pros,” Collins said. “I get the feeling whenever I come to a high school gym. It’s really familiar, that smell, that atmosphere. I kind of miss it, but aye I’m on to bigger and better things.”

By Jeremy Johnson

Growing up Collins doesn’t remember getting an experience like the one he provided the youngsters of Athens Academy with Sunday evening. For that reason, Collins prides himself in getting out and being seen by the younger generation. He knows the type of impact meeting professional athletes can have on young people and it’s something he wants to continue.

“That was really the big part of it, I didn’t have a lot of pro players that stuck out in my memory, that came out to visit me” Collins said. “I know how big of an impact that would have had on me when I was younger to see one or be around one, even if it was only for a couple of minutes. I understand the impact it has, especially for the kids that want to play basketball.”

Collins realizes his NBA dreams for real as the Hawks tip off the 2017 season in Dallas against the Mavericks.

By Jeremy Johnson

The world changed forever on September 11, 2001. As the world watched as the events of that day unfolded, a young John Collins too pondered the impact that the world’s deadliest terrorist attack would have on his life.

For Collins, 9/11 was 12 days away from his 4th birthday, and he had a hard time understanding just what the events meant. He does remember the results of that day as they shifted Collins from his address from Turkey to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Collins’ mother was in the Air Force and was stationed in Turkey at the time of the attacks. As the country prepared for war, Collins’ mother sent him to live with his grandparents in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands after the base in Turkey was evacuated.

“It’s kind of crazy and stuff happens, my mom’s a trouper,” Collins said. “I think I was really too young to understand what was going on at the time. It really didn’t hit me as hard as other people, which is kind of crazy to think about.”

Throughout the time in between then all the way until the Hawks selected Collins with the 19th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Collins has moved around with his mother and as other rookie players adjust to living far from home for the first time while also making the social adjustment that comes with changing cities, Collins has already dealt with many types of people and socially feels he can get along with anyone.

Adjusting to the different personalities and connecting with people isn’t the only thing that Collins learned from growing up in a military atmosphere at home.

“At a young age I got used to [moving and traveling] and I actually kind of like it,” Collins said. “I don’t know why going to different places gives me different perspectives in mind. It also helped me socially, not having a group of friends and having to be able to talk and moving my way through people constantly. It’s helped me a lot.”

The professionalism and discipline Collins now carries himself with began with a strict upbringing at home. Collins admits his mother was strict, but he now appreciates where that learned discipline has carried him.

“My mom and my dad actually split up really early so it was a single parent household and my mom, it was really strict, a little different living in a military household, traveling all around the world at a young age,” Collins said. “It definitely gave me perspective as a little kid… It’s something that molds right together is that discipline and tolerance that comes with being a military kid and growing up in that military lifestyle and turning that into professionalism. I’ve become a true pro, though I’m trying to learn my way, I’m still a rookie and I’ve got things to learn. It’s part of the process. Becoming a true professional and a true one day in and day out.”

Today, the world goes through another set of changes with the world of sports caught in the middle of a bit of a revolution as teams, athletes and the media outlets that cover them go back and forth on how to protest the police brutality and social injustices that plague the country. The country appears divided on standing or kneeling for the national anthem. The form of protest has been a dividing factor the past few weeks after President Donald Trump’s comments.

As Collins enters his rookie season in the NBA the debate hits home, but he thinks the correct response and form of protest is based on the individual. Collins thinks everyone has a right to voice their opinion in the manner they find fit.

“I think it really just varies from person to person and how they feel about the topic,” Collins said. “That person can have a difference in opinion when it comes to how they feel if it respects the flag or doesn’t respect the flag and I think it’s all about finding your way to correctly do it and express it the way you want to express it. I think once that’s found out and fulfilled it up to them how they express their opinion. For me, I’m a military kid, so it’s always close to home when you start talking about stuff like that.”

If there were an experiment to further understand the effects of road weariness, the Atlanta Hawks would be the subject.

The Hawks finally played a ‘home’ preseason game Monday night that was only a home game in the sense that is was played in the city of Atlanta. The Hawks defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 100-88 in the penultimate game of the preseason.

The Hawks will play again Thursday at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion before a few days of practice and rest before heading out on the road for five straight road games.

The Hawks are the only team in the NBA with home opener later than Oct.27 as Phillips Arena undergoes its final stages of the first phase of a two-phase renovation.

Travel of the NBA is typical, but even so, starting the season with as much travel as the Hawks have endured have playing having to adjust as veterans like forward Kent Bazemore tries to pass his knowledge down to the many young players the Hawks have. Bazemore admits the road-life gets tough and things as simple as a home cooked meal and bed become a luxury when the team gets time off or plays at home.

“It kind of mimics what we’ve got going on to start the season on that last road trip we had, but you’ve to take it a day at a time,” Bazemore said. “One thing you kind of miss on the road is a home cooked meal and your own bed. It’s good to be back home for a little bit and enjoy that. It comes with the territory, you’ve just got to be smart. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of veterans in front of me how to optimize the rest on the road. I’m trying to share that with some of these young guys.”

For a rookie like John Collins, Monday was the first time he got to hear Ryan Cameron’s ‘Jam’ call whenever a Hawks’ player throws down a dunk. Collins was excited to play in front of his fans for the first time.

“I thought it was cool, we had a nice little road trip in preseason to start off, so it’s been good for us,” Collins said. “It’s always good to see that crowd cheering when you score a bucket. It felt good to get some energy.”

With 11 new players on the roster as of Monday, the Hawks needed to get to acquainted. The time the group has spent together has been a bit of a blessing for players to not only get a feel for what one another can do on the court but also get to know the guys and make some off the floor connections.

“We spent a ton of time together on the road, whether it be at dinner or just hanging out and playing video games,” Bazemore said. “It’s just good to kind of get that bonding time on the road. We had training camp and we came home for like a day and a half, but we’ve kind of been around each other for a little bit and kind of feeling each other out off the court and it’s starting to show on the court as well.”

After Thursday’s final preseason contest against the Dallas Mavericks, the Hawks will have five days before facing the Mavericks again in regular season-opener in Dallas. The Hawks first five games are on the road. Phillips Arena is scheduled to reopen on Friday, Oct. 27 as the Hawks host the Denver Nuggets.