Collins made such an impression that, four years later, her coach remembers what her future point guard was wearing. Michelle Lively also remembers the skills Collins showed.
“She could already dribble without looking, which is a rarity for girls,” said Lively, a former point guard. “She already had a pull-up jump shot. She could shoots 3s. She knew how to get into the lane and make good passes.
“All of that was on her own, and I just helped her perfect it.”
How close to perfect did Collins come by the end of her senior year at Saks?
Close enough that Calhoun County coaches voted her the county’s Class 3A player of the year.
The speedy Collins averaged 26 points, five steals and four assists a game in leading Saks to a 22-10 record and second consecutive appearance in the Northeast Regional.
She finished her career with 2,113 points.
If her stats don’t gush enough, her coach will gladly gush some more.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a player as quick as her and as talented as her,” Lively said.
Collins came to Lively so ready for varsity ball because she and Saks teammate Destinee Briskey played a lot of parks-and-rec ball against many of the same boys that went on to play for Saks.
“They’re bigger, and they’re stronger and they’re quicker,” Collins said. “It just made us one step ahead of the girls when we played against the girls.
“Guys are quick, so, if you crossover (dribble) in front of them, they’ll steal it. It just makes you get your crossover lower. Then you have to know how to play the right kind of defense.”
Collins came away from those pickup games a better player than even she realized. That’s where Lively went to work.
“She was questioning herself a lot, and she wouldn’t go full speed,” Lively said. “I made her dribble full speed every single drill, sprint down there as fast as you can and do a pull-up jump shot. We worked on that.”
Seeing how talented Collins was, Lively also had to get her over the impulse to defer to older players.
Midway through Collins’ freshman year, Lively told her to score more.
“Ever since then, she started going full speed in drills and in practice and in games. It kind of paid off there toward the end.
“We worked on her just attacking and shooting, kind of quick-release shot. Then she worked on her dribble and her step-back and pull-up shot. She’s worked pretty hard on all of that stuff.”
And those were just Collins’ offensive skills.
Lively is a defense-first coach and saw how Collins could use her quickness to create offense with her defense.
“She taught me that defense was more important than offense was,” Collins said. “I started out relying on my offense. Once I started relying on my defense, I got better as a player, overall.
“Getting steals and fast breaks, that was mostly all my points.”
One thing Collins didn’t have — and Lively couldn’t add — was size. Her 5-foot-2 frame is the biggest reason why college offers have been slow to come.
Lively said her former school, Gadsden State, and Talladega College have shown interest. Collins said she’s leaning toward walking on a Jacksonville State.
“When I go tryout, I’ve just got to show them that I’m worth it,” she said. “I’m worth being on the team.”
Lively hopes Collins will get an open-minded look from college coaches. If so, she said, they will see what she saw four years ago.
“I think what’s special about her is if you see her play,” Lively said, “it’s just unbelievable what she can do.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. Reach him at 256-235-3576. On Twitter: jmedley_star.