Almost 12 years ago, a young sophomore at Provo High School by the name of Kyle Collinsworth first stepped into the Utah sports spotlight as he helped the Bulldogs win the 2007-08 4A state championship.
Now, more than a decade later with stops at BYU for college basketball, and Dallas and Toronto for pro basketball, Collinsworth is back in Utah.
“It’s been good but there have been a lot of ups and downs,” Collinsworth said Thursday. “I caught a bad break last year with a broken foot at a bad time when there was movement going on. In my second year, I made it to the NBA and I signed some good contracts. I’m blessed to be able to play basketball and make a living out of it — and to be home this year. I try to fill my life with positivity and inspire others and enjoy it.”
The former Cougar and Provo star spoke to reporters at the media day for the Salt Lake City Stars, the G League affiliate of the Utah Jazz, on Thursday.
Collinsworth signed with the Jazz in mid-October, although Stars head coach Martin Schiller said they had hoped to bring him in earlier.
“We wanted to get Kyle last summer but we couldn’t get him,” Schiller said. “We were really aggressively trying to get him. We like Kyle a lot. There is his local history that is clear but this is about his basketball.”
Schiller explained that having a player who is now in his fourth year as a pro will bring experience to a young Stars team.
“His veteran leadership is important,” Schiller said. “He’s like a Swiss Army knife because he can do so many things well. I don’t think there is a coach who doesn’t like that. He is also so willing to do a lot of things. He could play at the No. 1 or 2 or 3 or 4. Not knowing him that well yet I have the feeling that he is someone who is very focused on helping the team win. Whatever it is or wherever he has to play, I think he will do it. That is something that is very appreciated.”
Collinsworth understands that he is expected to bring an element of expertise to Salt Lake City.
“This will be my fourth year and I’ve spent some time in the G League, so I’m excited to help the young guys get better as well as help myself get better and as a core unit get better,” Collinsworth said. “I’m excited to be home and to share my knowledge with the young guys. Hopefully I’ll have a great season.”
He recalled what it was like when he was in the shoes of the the rookie Stars players.
“It’s a different game,” Collinsworth said. “The first year is tough. I remember my rookie year where I signed a partial contract with Dallas and was with them in training camp, then came down to the G League and thought I was Lebron James. It’s still a high level and the game is fast. It’s different than college. It takes a lot of time to adjust. I tell the young guys to be patient and keep working.”
But his goal is still to get back to the highest level of basketball.
“I need to just keep improving from the guard spot,” Collinsworth said. “I need to improve my shot and be more of a playmaker, be more aggressive. I’ve just got to stay healthy and look to shoot more, be more aggressive offensively.”
He explained that the way the Utah Jazz work with the G League is something he values because he sees it as an opportunity.
“If the team doesn’t value the G League and doesn’t call people up, I wouldn’t be here,” Collinsworth said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s a good fit for me.”
Collinsworth now sports a scar under his left eye that he got from a collision during the free agent camp for the Los Angeles Clippers, so he has clear evidence of how physical it can be to play pro basketball.
Many of his talented former teammates are now overseas. He said he still keeps in contact with Brandon Davies, who he played with both at Provo and at BYU, as well as former Cougar superstar Jimmer Fredette. Collinsworth and BYU teammate Charles Abouo work on some business with regards to nutrition, so they have stayed close.
He’s thrilled to be back in Utah while still playing the game he loves.
“The best part is seeing my wife every day,” Collinsworth said with a grin. “It’s nice to go home and see familiar faces. Being by yourself can get old at times.”
The Salt Lake City Stars begin their season on Nov. 10 on the road at Sioux Falls with their first home game taking place on Nov. 15 at Bruin Arena at Salt Lake Community College in Taylorsville against Rio Grande Valley.