WESTTOWN >> In a community where athletic potential is rarely kept a secret, Jawan Collins’ historical possibilities were spoken in hushed tones until last year.
It wasn’t until after the 2014-15 season — when Collins cracked the 1,000-point plateau as a junior, leading Academy Park to the District One Class AAAA tournament — that assistant coach Ron Bright pointed to the record books. If all goes well, Bright told the guard, that record for most points in school history should be yours.
There it is. Jawan Collins, AP’s all-time leading scorer. https://t.co/1ZtygUTgLR
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) January 9, 2016
Saturday, as clinically and methodically as the first 1,200 went through the hoop, so did the historic No. 1,295, eclipsing Byu-Deen Twyman’s school record in a 72-54 win over West Chester Rustin.
Collins canned a jumper from a step inside the 3-point arc with 51 seconds left in the first half, his ninth point of the night. He entered with 1,286, trailing Victor Colon (1,290) and Twyman (1,294), teammates who graduated in 2000.
The sizable traveling fan section from Academy Park didn’t need an official announcement to set off a raucous round of applause after counting along with each basket. But the Rustin game staff paused the game briefly before intermission, allowing Collins to receive a bouquet of blue balloons, with which he sheepishly wandered into the stands to find a recipient before finishing the half.
“It means a lot,” Collins said. “I know a lot of great athletes that came through Academy Park. Some of them are still around. They always encouraged me to go get that record. They saw how close I was to it.”
The communal spirit applies to the man whose record Collins downed. He’s been in regular contact with Twyman, who still lives in the area and occasionally drops in on workouts to run with the Knights for a few hours.
At a school where recent athletic success has galvanized the community, the link between Twyman and Collins, separated by 16 years, typifies the weight of history on the present.
“He still stops by the gym once in a while,” Collins said. “He might come to a practice or two and run full-court against us. He always tells me to go get the record. He’s a cool guy.”
The first half wasn’t what Academy Park (8-4) had in mind to fete such a momentous occasion. Their offense was disjointed, possibly acquiescing to Collins for him to get his points while enduring a growing sense of anticipation as Collins hoisted double-figure shot attempts to achieve it. But after halftime, a rise in defensive intensity helped AP pull away, finishing on a 34-11 run.
Collins found his groove, scoring 28 points, including 9-for-10 from the line in the fourth. Nakim Stokes added 15, and DeAndray Covert supplied 11, but the genesis of the resurgence was defensive.
AP caused 22 Rustin turnovers, finally converting some into offense in the second half. The full-court press, keyed by the athleticism and dogged pestering of Teddy Wright and backstopped by the rim-guarding of Devoughnte Brown, turned the game around.
Brown was particularly huge. Playing just his second game of the season after a concussion suffered in the PIAA Class AAA football loss to Imhotep, Brown hardly left the court after halftime. He scored four points, but his six rebounds and two blocks were just as vital, particularly for a team requiring a defensive spark.
“Coach wanted us to bring more energy,” Brown said. “He said we were kind of dead. We said at halftime that we needed to turn it up, get more energy and have more hustle.”
Early on, Rustin was winning that battle. They got eight first-quarter points from Jake Nelson off a tidy pick-and-roll game. But the game pivoted when Ryan Loucks (eight points) went down with a leg injury in the third. The offense dried up, with only Tajir Asparagus (11 points) getting into double-figures.
Fittingly, Collins personally got AP over the hump. He hit a step-back 3-pointer, then drove to the hole to nudge the Knights ahead, 46-45, at 2:06 of the third. It was their first lead since 8-7, and it spurred a 12-2 run to end the frame.
On a night where Collins lavished so much praise on others for helping him achieve his goal, there never seemed to be a doubt that his individual quest would be the catalyst for another team triumph.
“Everyone supported me,” Collins said. “And that’s what’s so fun about it, everyone supporting me.”