SALT LAKE CITY — A little less than two hours before the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks were set to square off Saturday night at Vivint Arena, a single player was putting up shots on the Mavericks’ end of the floor.
Former Provo High and BYU star Kyle Collinsworth made his first trip back to the Beehive State as an NBA player, returning to the venue where he racked up his first collegiate triple-double just over three years ago, the beginning a run that saw him become the NCAA’s all-time leader in the statistic.
Undrafted after concluding his collegiate career with the Cougars, Collinsworth spent a full season with Dallas’ G League team, the Texas Legends. Then on Dec. 19, he was signed by the Mavericks to a two-way contract and appeared in four games over the next month.
The six games from Jan. 22-31 wound up being the big break Collinsworth needed, as he averaged 13.8 minutes per contest, posting marks of 3.3 points, four rebounds and 1.2 assists.
On Feb. 8, Collinsworth signed a multiyear deal with Dallas, although just this season is guaranteed.
“He’s earned the shot,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said.
Said Collinsworth, “I got my opportunity, and I’m just grateful that I took advantage of it and that I get a chance to close the year with the Mavericks,” adding that future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki was his favorite player as a youngster and has been a “big help” to him.
For the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder, it’s the ability to do a variety of things like he displayed in college that has allowed him to become a contributor this season for Dallas. In the five games entering Saturday since signing the deal earlier this month, Collinsworth has averaged 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists while logging 17 minutes per contest.
“I like the fact that he really can play three positions,” Carlisle said. “Playmakers are at a premium in this day and age in the NBA, and he’s a playmaker.”
Collinsworth said continued faith that he could make it in the league is a key reason he feels he’s here.
“It’s been a roller coaster, but I think the biggest thing I’ve been able to do is believe,” he said. “Believe when things were good, believe when things were bad. Never lost my belief, never lost my goal, and I just kept working and kept believing. I stayed consistent with my routine, with all the little things that I do that I believe give me an edge to be here. I just kept at it.”
On Saturday, Collinsworth first entered the game with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter. He wound up playing just two minutes, however, racking up a rebound and committing a turnover.
Although he wants to stick with his strengths as a facilitator and rebounder moving forward, Collinsworth said he is working on becoming a more aggressive shooter.
“I’ve got to change my mindset to really look to shoot the 3 first,” he said. “There’s got to be a shift of my mental state. I’m making progress. Going to keep working, keep believing and keep making strides.”