With the second-division club in northern Italy, Collins immediately found his niche as a scoring point guard that thrived in a European system. He drew comparisons to former Clemson star and Italian League MVP Terrell McIntyre, and routinely had showdowns with other ex-college standouts and NBA players.
Collins’ most high-profile matchup with Ferrara came when he was pitted against Earl Boykins – the diminutive former Eastern Michigan star and, at the time, a nine-year NBA veteran.
Collins, who led Ferrara to the league championship during the 2007-08 season, moved up with his squad to Serie A the following year. After three years, the former Terp left Ferrara to sign “an offer I really couldn’t refuse” with Virtus Bologna -- “one of the most historic teams in European basketball.” Collins, who broke his hand in training camp, parted ways with Bologna after the 2009-10 season, but rebounded quickly by signing a deal with Scavolini Pesaro. One year with that club led to Collins landing with Otto Caserta for the 2011-12 season.
Today Collins is 22 games into his sixth professional season, and for the first time in three years, the Eastern Shore native is back to his normal self. Injuries with Bologna and Pesaro limited him significantly, but Collins is 100 percent healthy and thriving on a team that fits him to a T.
A typical day includes two practices followed by quality family time with Andre Jr., and Ashley, who Collins met in high school and has dated seriously for “about a year and a half.” When Otto Caserta hits the road, Collins rooms with NBA veteran Charlie Bell – a fellow national champion who won his title at Michigan State two years before Collins won his with the Terps.
Collins, who averages 14.5 points and 5.7 assists, is enjoying his time with Otto Caserta – currently the 10th-place team in Serie A out of 17. While soccer remains the sport of kings in Europe, Italian League basketball has a fairly rabid following. Collins said “it’s impossible to go to a restaurant” and not be noticed by fans and autograph seekers. There are parts of his basketball-playing life that remind him of his time at Maryland and his time at Loyola.
“It’s a lot like the college level,” Collins said. “Loyola wasn’t so crazy as far as people wanting autographs or whatnot. Maryland was like that a little. You really felt like you were a professional athlete at Maryland. I would compare Europe to that aspect of Maryland. As far as me playing personally, it was two different types of careers at Maryland and Loyola. It’s very similar to Loyola because I have a lot of freedom to play the game the way I did at Loyola.”
During the summer, Collins comes home to Maryland for a couple weeks of relaxation followed by a couple months of basketball training. He remains close with former Terp Chris McCray, with whom he plays pickup frequently. Collins and his fianceé have a condo on the Eastern Shore, and they’re planning to build a house there in the next year or two.
Professionally and personally, Collins couldn’t be much happier with his state in life. He’s armed with a $300,000-or-so-contract in Europe’s top league, and is playing in a pick-and-roll-based system that suits him perfectly. His time at Maryland, meanwhile, serves as both a motivational tool and a constant reminder of what it was like to achieve ultimate team success.
“It definitely made me humble,” Collins said. “I’ve always been very competitive. I’ve always had a fire in me. It allowed me to step back from the game and just watch it. I learned from older players. I didn’t take basketball for granted after that. It made me really go back and work on my game, work to get better. It was a learning lesson for me. I think it’s very important that I went through it. That made me a better player and a better man."