During a break at the St. Louis University basketball camps, Yuri Collins and Terrence Hargrove Jr. had a chance to briefly step away from the gym to a quieter space away from the noise.
But even there, campers sought them out, calling their names and looking for attention. In their first month on campus, the SLU signees have become easily identifiable to a group that is going to grow over the next year.
“Yuri,” one boy shouted as he ran to Collins, “people are looking you up on the internet.”
The introduction to college life in June has not been one of ease or anonymity for the two local high school standouts. Their time is being demanded not only by kids all day but by director of sports performance Robb Hornett in the weight room before the sun rises and by coach Travis Ford for workouts before they can return to dorms for some rest.
“People ask me how college is going and I just tell them it’s different,” said Collins, a 5-foot-10 point guard from St. Mary’s. “You can tell it’s a new level. We’re basically getting paid to play college basketball on full scholarship. So, we can’t come here and waste anyone’s time. We have a mission. This program is pushing us to do a lot, and we have to step up to the task.”
Hargrove (East St. Louis) and Collins played together on the Brad Beal Elite summer team and are among the growing batch of local players to select SLU. That group also includes incoming junior college transfer Javonte Perkins (Miller Career Academy), returning junior Jordan Goodwin (Althoff), and if you stretch the geography, Fred Thatch Jr. (Sikeston).
On a team that will be young, Hargrove and Collins are expected to have significant roles as freshmen.
They have played together and against each other. Both were offered scholarships by other major programs. And they made their official campus visits to SLU together. That both became Billikens was not necessarily a coincidence.
“I committed in June (2018) and Yuri was interested,” Hargrove said. “He took his official visit when I took mine, so I was persuading him to come as hometown heroes, not far from home. When I found out he committed I was happy to play with him again.”
Hargrove made his decision fairly early in the recruiting process. He wanted to stay close to home, partly so his mother could travel more easily to games. He ended up attending numerous home games last season.
Collins had hoped to leave town for college, but his visit made a big impact. He liked that Ford not only was a guard in his playing days but a small guard, who he felt could help him better adapt to the college game.
He already is working to adjust.
“There’s more speed, height, strength. People are long,” Collins said. “You have to know how to pick your spots. I can’t be driving, thinking I’m going to make every layup over everybody. I’m one of the smallest players in the country.
“This level is pushing me already to develop my game. I’ve been working a lot on floaters. In high school I would just drive straight to the basket. Now there’s going to be people jumping with me.”
Collins returned from a shoulder injury that required surgery last summer to average 22.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and seven assists as a senior. He helped get St. Mary’s High to a Missouri Class 4 runner-up finish.
Hargrove is 6-7 and averaged 18.5 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots as the Flyers won the Illinois Class 3A championship. Collins called him “a freakish athlete and terrific shot blocker who will dunk on anybody in the country. Anybody.”
“I don’t see a big difference,” Hargrove said before noting the differences between high school and college. “It’s just a little faster and more intense and guys are bigger and stronger. But I fit right in and love working out with my teammates. I fit in well with the physicality and speed because I love to run. Coach Ford wants to get out and run more, filling the lanes, lobs, layups and breaking people down.”
Hargrove also is working on getting stronger as he hits the weight room regularly for the first time. He has added about seven pounds, to reach 197, since arriving in early June.
Collins continues to recover from surgery he had last summer on his left shoulder. He first suffered a shoulder separation as a high school junior but played through repetitive instances of the shoulder popping out of its socket.
After recovering, he played most of his senior season but is going to resume rehabilitation on the shoulder to see if he can increase his range of motion.
“I was told I’d never have full range, but most of it,” he said. “Now I’m going back to see if I can get a little more because our strength coach thinks I can.”
But Collins is the same player that Hargrove remembers seeing.
“He’s one of the shiftiest people I know,” Hargrove said. “He gets to the basket quick. He has so many moves. He’s a true point guard — a pass-first point guard — and you don’t find too many of those.”