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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU basketball: Collinsworth not ruling out leaving early

Kyle Collinsworth walked into the sports information offices at BYU on Monday for a sit-down interview and he looked much different than he did back in February and early March when he led the Cougars on that 10-2 run that got them into the NCAA Tournament.

Yes, Collinsworth’s upper body is more chiseled than before — "but I’m not going to get muscle-bound," he says — but what really stands out is his hair. That short-cropped, bushy look is gone, replaced by a more standard-looking cut with a part on the side. He looks a lot like his older brother, Chris.

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But enough about outward appearances. What really matters for Collinsworth is how the inside of his surgically repaired right knee is doing.

As you can read online at sltrib.com right now or in Thursday’s printed newspapers, Collinsworth says he is ahead of schedule on his comeback from major ACL surgery performed back on March 18 by Dr. Vernon Cooley, the same orthopedic surgeon in Park City who fixed Tiger Woods’ left knee.

"We have tried to keep a timeframe of where we want to be, and what we want to be doing. I am a couple weeks ahead of where we mapped things out, so it is good. I have a doctors’ appointment a week from today, so I hope to be cleared to do a lot more stuff," Collinsworth told me.

Collinsworth was kind enough to give me 20 minutes on Monday as he took a short break from his rehab work, and we talked about a lot of things that I couldn’t fit into a 25-inch feature on his recovery.

Most notably, Collinsworth acknowledged that he could possibly leave BYU after next season for the NBA and forego his senior season if he has a big year and is projected as an NBA first-round draft pick.

"Well, I am a little bit older, because of the mission. I plan on having a big year, and if I do, if the opportunities come, I will take them. So, I am not committed to four years. I am not going to say I am going to leave early, but if the opportunity comes, I will take it. .. If there are people predicting me to be a first-round draft pick, then I will go," he said.

Collinsworth knows he has the athleticism needed to play profession al basketball, but his shooting really needs to improve — especially his free-throw shooting. To that end, he said he’s been working with a shot doctor of sorts — Kirk Miles — to improve his percentages from the charity stripe and the field.

"I have spent a ton of time on free-throw shooting," he said. "I have a new routine, and have been working with different people, so I am excited. I have a shooting coach that I am working with right now, Kirk Miles. He gives me a different perspective. He’s been really good."

The BYU basketball team will look dramatically different this year with the early departure of Matt Carlino (to Marquette) and plenty of new faces, including Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer, UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes (in mid-December) and returned missionary Isaac Neilson, among others.

As for Carlino’s departure, which basically came because Collinsworth had been handed the starting point guard reins, Collinsworth had nothing but good things to say about the former Cougar.

"Matt was a good friend of mine, so it was kind of tough to hear he was leaving," Collinsworth said. "But if he wasn’t happy here, then he made the right move for himself. I respect his choice, and we are just moving forward from here."

Here are a few more comments from Collinsworth, on a variety of topics:

On the need for a basketball practice facility:

"It would definitely help. I am the type of guy, like 2 or 3 in the morning, I just want to go find a spot and shoot, or work out, or whatever. We don’t have that here, so it makes it kind of tough. Spur of the moment, there is a night where nothing is going on, I would rather just go work out. So it would be nice to know you have a spot to go do that. So I think it would help a lot."

On whether he’s done anything fun this summer:

"Not really, I have just been really focused, trying to work six days a week. I didn’t take summer school this summer so I could stay focused on rehab and all that. I didn’t take spring or summer [block classes]. It has just been ‘eyes on the prize.’ We decided I didn’t need to [take classes] because I had 16 credits of Russian [from mission experience]. At end of August sometime I will probably go to California with a few of our guys, and Paul Peterson, a guy we work out with all the time, and go to California and just work out. It is nice to get away and just work out, and you are focused and over there just to work out."

On how Gonzaga is seemingly loading up on talented transfers:

"I’ve heard. Yeah, everyone tells me. I am excited, though. The better they are, the better it is for us. We want them to be tough. I am excited. The better they are, the better it is for us."

On how the Cougars will do without Matt Carlino:

"I think we will be good — not because we don’t have Matt, but because of everyone else who is coming. We have Chase, Jamal, Isaac, a couple freshmen coming in. So I just think with the new group of people we have, it is going to be a great team. It is going to be really fun to watch."

On the two guys who were going on missions, but will join the team for the 2014-15 season instead, Jake Toolson and Dalton Nixon:

"It was unexpected, because we thought they were heading out. But they will help the team a lot. They are both great shooters, and they will be able to spread the floor for us."

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