By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari probably reacts more to his heart than his brain when it comes to sophomore forward Daimion Collins. His father passed away unexpectedly before the season started. He was in Lexington visiting his son at the time.
“He lost 17 pounds. His dad would have been his best man in his wedding. That’s how close they were,” Calipari said. “Now he is starting to come back but I am not throwing him to the wolves. Putting him in and out. His confidence is growing.”
Calipari said Collins told him three different times after the recent Mississippi game how much he appreciated the coach.
“He didn’t need to say that,” Calipari said.
Teammate Oscar Tshiebwe lost his father at age 12 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his home. The All-American said he hugs Collins every time he sees him.
“I can look at his face, and I can see how much pain he has, but doesn’t show,” Tshiebwe said. “Because I went through that.”
Tshiebwe said it impacted him for several years after his father’s passing.
“For me to be back to normal, it took me so many years. For him, I’m just praying for him, because I can see him now … he’s starting to learn how to let it go, to let time pass,” Tshiebwe said. “It’s going to take him a little while to heal, but I just need people to keep praying for him.
“He will be good. He’s a kid who loves basketball. He works on it all the time. He competes.”
Guard CJ Fredrick says the UK team is a “brotherhood” that takes care of each other.
“Just seeing him out there, seeing him playing, seeing him smiling, having fun … that means a lot to us. He’s been through so much,” Fredrick said.
Freshman Cason Wallace is Collins’ cousin and went with Calipari to Ben Collins’ funeral in Texas. Daimion Collins took the flight back to Lexington with them.
“I’m sure he knows that I’m here for him. And if he ever needs something, I got him,” Wallace said.