College basketball is the next level. The athletes run faster, jump higher and they are bigger and stronger. Overall, they have more experience.
However, for first-year student Jake Collagan, the lack of experience has not stopped him. Collagan has already racked up playing time on the courts.
Head Coach Ryan Cain has had his eye on Collagan since last year. Assistant Coach Tyler Hundley watched Collagan play over the summer before he [Hundley] came to Keene State.
Hundley kept up with his watch on Collagan and mentioned his name to Cain. “We made the call out to him, to say Coach Hundley made the switch over here [Keene State]. As soon as Coach Hundley talked to him, he was very excited about the opportunity here at Keene State,” Cain said.
Hundley remembers the first time he watched Collagan. “It was at an AAU tournament in Springfield, two summers ago. It’s just the talent that he had; he was a kid who wasn’t the biggest kid in the world, but he was able to make shots, he was pretty athletic, he was able to do a bunch of different things, offensively at least, [and] that was what sparked my interest in him and I called him right away,” Hundley said.
He continued, “As soon as I saw him play that night, and I remember our first conversation, we definitely hit it off and it was the most comfortable to that point that I’ve ever felt with a recruit right away; it was kind of a match made right away.”
As they went through the process of recruitment, the coaching staff had gotten to know Collagan very well as a person and a player.
“He’s a real hard-working young man, you know, he’s a bit undersized at this point,” Cain laughs, “but his skills make up for some of his size. He really wants to be good, so he’s already developed quite a bit since we started playing.”
Collagan also mentioned his size. “I’m a string bean, that’s how everyone looks at me. I’m very skinny, that’s probably my main weakness,” Collagan laughed, “I got to get some weight on me.”
Despite his size, “He’s definitely a good shooter and he’s really good with a basketball,” Cain said. “He’s a tough guy to stay in front of, he’s worked hard on his game to really have the ability to break guys down off the dribble so he could get the spot. He gets to the 12 -18 foot spot for a pull-up jumper about as good as anyone on our team, so I think that is probably his biggest strength and now we get to build his game around that strength.”
Cain said that Collagan is like many other first-years. “They get the defensive side of the court, which is a big adjustment for some freshman and that was the case for Jake,” Cain said.
He continued, “well, especially with his size, but I think he’s really figured it out in terms of the level he needs to compete at. He has to find his niche on the defensive end of the floor because of his size and I think he’s done a nice job.”
Senior guard and forward Matthew Ozzella said that Collagan is a young and talented player. “He can shoot the ball as well as anyone. As a young first-year it’s tough to merge your talents with the maturity needed to consistently play well and grow as a leader,” Ozzella said.
Roles change day-to-day and game-to-game for the Owls.
As for Collagan, “His role can be coming in and giving us a spark, that could be with the energy that he plays with, that could be by scoring points and then hopefully he’s developing his game to be more of a playmaker and a facilitator for other guys too, not just when he gets the ball. He’s looking for himself, it’s he can get in the way and make a play for some other guys and get them good shots as well,” Cain said.
Collagan shared that the team has goals to get back to the NCAA tournament and to take on the Little East Conference.
Even though Collagan is just a first-year, he recognizes how much it means to everyone else to take home the Little East Conference title for the third year in a row.
Cain said that Collagan is one of the guys they’re really excited about.
Cain expressed that Collagan has already made so much progress since when their season started on Oct. 15. Cain said he wants to see if Collagan will continue that development and have it be an upward trend throughout his four years. “I think he’s got a ton of potential, you know it’s always hard to figure out what that potential is, but no doubt were excited about him and the role he can have with his team,” Cain said.
“I think it’s going to be a great experience with Coach Cain. I know how much passion he has for the game and I’m just right there with him, I love basketball. Coach Stitchell, he loves basketball, Coach Hundley everybody. I think it’s going to be a great four years and I can’t wait,” Collagan said.
Shelby Iava can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org