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Collins returns with a flourish

Collins returns with a flourish

Jan. 16, 2004

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. - Just from looking at the statistics, one might think junior guard Stefanie Collins is having a good season. As of January 14, she stood fourth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring and 43rd nationally, averaging 18.9 points per game. That might be expected of a former Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, but what some people don't know is how difficult a road she faced to regain that form.

Collins missed the entire 2002-03 season after reconstructive surgery on her left knee. She suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee during a pre-season workout.

The rehabilitation was grueling, and the time away from the game was agonizing, especially watching her teammates suffer through a losing season. But Collins has returned perhaps better that she was before the injury.

"When I was rehabbing, I kept working hard and focusing so I could come back stronger than before," Collins said. "I had such a strong supporting cast from both my teammates and coaches. Right now, I feel like I am in the best shape of my career."

"It is really no surprise to me that Stef has come back the way she has," said Bonnies' head coach Jim Crowley. "I say that simply because she worked very hard, and I have never seen a kid who has the drive to succeed that she has."

It did not take long for Collins to become the leader the Bonnies missed on and off the court. In the Nov. 22 season opener at Stony Brook, Collins scored 36 points, the fourth best single-game output in St. Bonaventure history.

"It is great to have Stef back on the floor," said senior co-captain Becky Valenti. "She is both a vocal leader as well as a good floor general. She gives 100 percent all the time and that is just contagious."

Through games of January 15, Collins ranks fourth nationally in three pointers per game (3.5) and seventh in three-point percentage (49.5). Fourteen games into the season, Collins has converted 49 three-point field goals, already good for eighth best in the program's history. But she is more than just a long-distance shooter.

"She really has an all around game of a scorer," Crowley said. "She has added to her range and also become more fluent in scoring in the paint."

Collins has helped her teammates improve as well. Senior Jade Humble, junior Caitlin Crist and sophomore Shannon Bodamer have all increased their offensive production thanks to Collins. Humble has improved almost a point a game from 4.4 to 5.3, Crist from 6.3 to 7.3 and Bodamer from 2.1 to 5.0.

"Opposing teams are basing their entire game plans on stopping her," Crowley said, "and she is just 14 games into her second college season."

Collins has also proven to be a solid all-around player. She averages 3.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and a team-high 1.5 steals per game, and yet is far from satisfied.

"I am willing to do what it takes for the team to win," she said. "My turnovers are my weak point right now and it is something I have to continue to work on and improve."

"The encouraging thing is that she is still learning to play the game," Crowley said. "I can also say without hesitation that Stef has just started to scratch the surface of the player she will become."

Story by Jack Jumper '02
Assistant Sports Information Director