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"Big Russia" returns to basketball court for BYU with big plans, but plenty of patience

Published July 23, 2013 3:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kyle Collinsworth is back — as I am sure most BYU basketball fans are well aware — and the sophomore-to-be is slightly bigger than when he left on his LDS Church mission to Vladivostok. He left weighing about 210 lbs., and now weighs 215. He also had a new nickname: Big Russia. That's the tagline he left when he sent emails to his parents from the biggest mission (geographically) in the church, and it apparently has stuck. "Everyone just started calling me that, and the coaches started calling me that, and now it is just my nickname. .. I said it, and then everyone else started saying it, and so it just stuck after that," he said. He must like it, because his Twitter handle is @bigrussia5. You can go there to see a picture of him wearing one of those big Russian winter hats with ear flaps, he says. The 6-foot-6 Collinsworth, looking a bit thicker than he did in April of 2011, spoke publicly to media members on Tuesday morning at Legends Grille on BYU's campus, a bit more than two months after returning from a place he called "cold, very cold ... freezing cold." Here's my report on the 13-minute discussion with Collinsworth, which can be found online. Because of space constraints, print version of the story might not appear until Thursday. Apologies if you are sick of reading the exact same stuff about Collinsworth from every media outlet you favor; Having made the request to talk to Collinsworth days after his return, I suggested separate interview sessions for print and electronic folks today, but BYU's people wanted it done all together. And so it was. I focused on what Collinsworth's role will be on the 2013-14 team, and how he will mesh with junior point guard Matt Carlino, in my article for the newspaper. Obviously, there was a whole lot more discussed, including Collinsworth's training regimen as he tries to duplicate what Tyler Haws did upon returning from the Philippines and having an all-conference season. One of the more interesting comments came after someone asked Collinsworth how the BYU basketball team he has been playing pickup games with and against has changed since 2011. Because this year's team will have no seniors, the only player still around is junior guard Anson Winder, who redshirted the 2010-11 season. "Our team is really athletic," Collinsworth said. "I would even go so far as to say that this might be the most athletic team BYU has ever had. We have a lot of athletic guys. Our guard line is very deep, and very athletic. And [freshman] Eric Mika, I have never seen a big guy play like him, who can run and jump like he can. So, we are very athletic, our team is this year." Here are a few more of his comments:On what he's been doing the past two months:"It has been a big adjustment, obviously, from Russia, It is a different world over there. I have just been trying to get in shape, and get my feet back. Just living life right now. ... I have actually been doing a lot of different things, a lot of swimming, and working out in sand. I go to Yoga two or three times a week, so I am just really trying to get my body right, flexible at the end, and using swimming a lot for conditioning and just to change it up a little bit. So I am doing a lot of different teams."On how his fitness level is improving the past two months since getting home:"I have actually made a lot of progress. I am really surprised with my progress so far. The key is no setbacks. So I have to listen to my body. The hardest part about the whole deal is patience. Sometimes I think I am ready to play a game right now, but I am not. So I have to just really be patient in the whole process."On whether he's talked about the best way to regain his skills with Tyler Haws: "When my brother got home, he obviously struggled with this, so my parents told me ... We had a talk .. that when I got home, things would be different. So what Tyler has taught me is patience. You gotta take it slow. So there is no rush. We have plenty of time. The key is no setbacks."On whether he could play a game tomorrow if he had to: "Yeah, mentally I could. I could get through it. [physically] I am sure if I had to, I could."On whether he can jump as high now:"I can. Even higher. It just doesn't last as long now. I only have it for about 30 minutes, then it goes away." On how he will fit back in with this team:"I don't think I will have a problem with that. I can play multiple positions — with the ball in my hands, or without it. So I just have to stay healthy, and I think I will find a spot." On former BYU forward Chris Collinsworth, his brother, having to quit basketball and how he found out: "I found out through an email. Obviously, it was hard for me to hear. But my brother is the type of kid that it doesn't matter. He always says that the round ball goes flat for everybody. It is just a matter of when. He has his head on straight, and he is going to do great in life, no matter what he is doing. He is very positive. He has taught me to be positive, always."On BYU being in the WCC now:"The last game I won at BYU was against Gonzaga, so the one thing I want to do is go and get another win against Gonzaga. It has been awhile for us. So I am excited. There are a lot of good teams in our conference. It is going to be different. I will have to get a feel for it." On Dave Rose wanting BYU to play more man-to-man defense:"What we are trying to do right now is not rely on our help defense. We know where it is going to be, but we try to not use the help right now. So I think that is a big key for us ... You know help is going to be there, but you got to stop it. You know where help is going to be, but it is not going to be there right now. So it is really good for us to shut down your guy, one on one, and not rely on help early in the season, from offseason." On what he learned on his mission that he can apply to his future basketball career: "Just to be mentally tough. I mean, getting back, there have been some workouts that I don't think, honestly, that I should have made it through. But mentally, I have learned to be mentally tough and just get through things. I ran my first mile in six minutes. And after the first lap I was done physically, but I just stayed mentally tough. I think that's been a big advantage — just being mentally tough."On goals he has for the upcoming season:"I have a lot, but that is kind of personal right now."On how much basketball he played in Russia:"None. Absolutely none. They do [have hoops over there], but I don't think playing basketball five or 10 times is going to make a difference. I was out there to be a missionary, and that's what I was." On how much he thought about basketball, the NCAA Tournament wins and losses in 2011: "Not really, to be honest. I was focused." On what coach Dave Rose told him in their first chat when he returned:"He just talked to me about taking it slowly and being patient, that we have a long time, and there is no need to rush. He just really talked about getting shots up, about shooting a lot. We set some goals together and we talked about some things."On Tyler Haws going to Russia this summer to play for Team USA in the WUG:"Where he was at was so far from where I was at that there really wasn't much to talk about." On what he missed most about the U.S.:"Probably food. Like here, I can just get in the car and pick something up. In Russia, you can't just go to the store and grab some food. It is completely different." On the weirdest food he tried in Russia: "Some sort of fish. It was pretty nasty. Eggplants with a fish. ...It was gross. I wouldn't recommend it."