MIAMI — John Collins is in the middle of a very busy time.
The former Cardinal Newman basketball standout has traveled around the country to work out for the Kings, Lakers, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Pistons, Bulls and Hornets during this busy evaluation process leading up to the June 22 NBA draft. But Wednesday’s workout for the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena felt a little different.
“It felt kind of weird, man,” said Collins, who spent his teenage years living in West Palm Beach. “Most of the time I come to Miami, I’m either just hanging out or I was playing high school basketball. But to actually go into the arena and actually play basketball. I’ve been to that arena so many damn times. To actually put some Heat gear on and play in front of those guys — it was crazy, man. It was definitely one of the moments I’ll never forget. I’m a big Heat fan. That was huge.”
Collins was a big supporter of the Heat growing up, attending games at AmericanAirlines Arena and celebrating each of the two titles and four Finals appearances during the Big Three era. The Wake Forest power forward even grew up with “a couple of D-Wade posters on the wall.”
But Wednesday was an opportunity for the Heat to watch Collins, who said president Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg, head coach Erik Spoelstra and “everybody in the front office” were in attendance for the workout. It was a group session that also included guard Terrance Ferguson, Purdue power forward/center Caleb Swanigan and Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard.
“It was one of the more cardio intensive workouts, but I was prepared for it,” Collins said of his group workout with the Heat. “I knew that coming in. I know that Pat’s big thing is being in word class shape. He’s big on that. But it wasn’t too crazy. But you could definitely tell they wanted to get us moving, show off our athleticism and let us play. It was a good workout. But it was definitely one of the more cardio intensive workouts.”
Collins (6-10, 225) is an intriguing prospect, as he averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds and was named the ACC’s Most Improved Player as a sophomore at Wake Forest last season. The 19-year-old led the nation with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 35.9.
Collins is projected to be drafted in Miami’s range around the 14th overall pick in most mock drafts. In fact, DraftExpress’ latest mock has Collins going to the Heat in the first round, while others like NBADraft.net has Collins going to the Pacers at No. 18.
“Miami isn’t my hometown because I am from Palm Beach, but you get the sense that everybody in Palm Beach is a Heat fan, including myself. It would definitely be wild,” Collins said of the possibility of getting drafted by the Heat. “I’ve been to AmericanAirlines Arena too many times to count. I grew up watching D-Wade and Shaq and then you get to see the Big Three era. Obviously, D-Wade is an icon down there regardless of what team he’s on. It would be crazy. It honestly would be insane to see myself in a Heat uniform. It would be crazy, man.”
As far as meeting Riley, the experience lived up to Collins’ expectations.
“His hair is always on point,” Collins said. “He’s always going to have that showtime swag. You know how he does, man. That’s in his DNA. He’s always going to have that swagger, that aura with him. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”