Provo • Kyle Collinsworth went two years without even touching a basketball, let alone playing games, while on his LDS Church mission in Vladivostok, Russia.
This coming season, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound BYU basketball playmaker wants to have the ball in his hands as much as possible as the Cougars embark on their third season in the West Coast Conference. In 2010-11 as a freshman backing up Jimmer Fredette at point guard on the BYU team that made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, while also playing three or four other positions, Collinsworth started 27 games and averaged 25.7 minutes, 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
"I want to play with the ball in my hands. So, whatever [position] that means, is what I want [to play]," Collinsworth said Tuesday in his first public interview since returning in mid-May. Obviously, that means point guard.
Trouble is, BYU already has an above-average point guard who likes to play with the ball in his hands, and loves to score so much that he doesn't seem to play all that well when he's not contributing points. His name is Matt Carlino, he's coming off a strong postseason performance that carried BYU to the NIT semifinals, and he will be a junior this fall.
Collinsworth spoke Tuesday as if he's not concerned about the dilemma.
"For our team, we push [the ball] a lot, so it is not going to matter," Collinsworth said. "Whoever gets the rebound me, Ty [Haws], Matt, we are going to go. So the key is I just want to be able to have the ball in my hands. This year, we are doing a lot of pick-and-roll stuff, so that will be very possible."
In exit interviews after the 76-70 loss to eventual champion Baylor at Madison Square Garden, BYU coach Dave Rose said both Carlino and Collinsworth will play the point in 2013-14, and will also play on the court together for long stretches.
He said it will be a "challenge," but believes the two will ultimately complement each other.
Collinsworth thinks so, too.
"We played yesterday on the same team in pickup, and we won four straight games. No problem," he said. "We found each other open, used each other off the pick-and-roll, spotted up for each other, and we won four straight.
"So I don't think we will have a problem. We are both players, and we are going to run, and we are going to get a lot of baskets."
Collinsworth said they traded off "every other play" playing point guard, "and we just played basketball." Carlino averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 assists per game last season while shooting 40 percent from the floor and 33.5 percent from 3-point range. Former Timpanogos High star Skyler Halford, an All-American junior college point guard for Salt Lake Community College last season, will also compete for minutes at the point this season.
Collinsworth shot 48 percent from the field and 26 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman, numbers the returned missionary said he's focused on improving since returning.
He has a "shooting coach" named Paul Peterson, a former BYU-Hawaii and professional player who has worked with Los Angeles Clippers free-agent signee Brandon Davies, and works with Peterson for more than an hour a day.
"I got to get [shooting] reps every day," Collinsworth said. "That is something I have been focusing on. I want to see results fast. ... I have proven that at any level I can get to the hoop and finish on anybody. So I am just trying to get a consistent [outside] shot. So far, so good."
Otherwise, Collinsworth said he is "being patient" in his return, having been told by Rose that there is plenty of time to get back. He is roughly following the model that all-conference performer Haws used so successfully last year at this time upon returning from the Philippines. To get in shape, he's been swimming a lot, working out in sand, and attending two or three yoga classes a week.
"It is coming back fast. I am really surprised," he said. "So, every week I get better, and things come more naturally. My body is starting to move a lot better. So everything is coming back fast. I just have to be patient, that's the key."
Kyle Collinsworth file
• Named The Salt Lake Tribune's Male Athlete of the Year in 2010 after a standout basketball career at Provo High School
• Averaged 5.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game as a freshman while helping the Cougars make it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament
• Spent the last two years on an LDS Church mission in Vladivostok, Russia