USC’s Isaiah Collier on return to court and overcoming adversity this season: ‘A learning process for all of us’

USC’s Isaiah Collier on return to court and overcoming adversity this season: ‘A learning process for all of us’

Isaiah Collier entered his freshman year at USC as the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school and the Trojans had high hopes for this season with the returning veteran players and star-studded players joining the team, led by Collier and Bronny James.

USC was No. 16 to start the season but fell quickly after a string of losses in early December. The team is now 11-16 and 11th in the Pac-12.

“We’ve been hit with a lot of challenges and adversity so it’s just learning to overcome those challenges and it’s up to us at this point,” Collier told Yahoo Sports. “I haven’t really lost like this before so it’s a learning process for me and a learning process for all of us. It’s part of the game and it’s just all about how our team overcomes.”

Collier, a 6-foot-5 guard, suffered a hand injury on Jan. 10 and was out for four weeks. Some speculated that Collier would shut his season down after being a projected first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, but he’s returned to the court better than ever. In his five games back after his injury, Collier is averaging 17.8 points and five assists per game.

“I’m back to 100%,” Collier added. “I took rehab real seriously. I definitely credit the staff for helping me through my injury. I just plugged in with film and conditioning as well.”

Collier was instrumental in helping land James, who chose the Trojans over Oregon and Ohio State. The pair’s on-court chemistry was on full display at the McDonald’s All American game and Nike Hoop Summit during their senior year in high school but because of Collier’s injury and James’ late start to the season after recovering from cardiac arrest in August, their time on the court has been limited. Late in the season, the duo have found each other in transition and different half-court sets and it’s been a positive for the struggling Trojans.

“We had that bond coming in, me and Bronny, and now the whole team has that bond as far as everyone in the locker room, so it’s been great,” Collier said. “We’re just looking to gel together and make that run.”

USC will need a miracle run through the Pac-12 tournament in order to have a shot at being one of the 68 teams in the NCAA tournament. The Trojans got a much-needed rivalry win against UCLA on Saturday with a 62-56 win. USC was led by senior guard Boogie Ellis, who finished with 24 points. Collier added 11 points and four assists in the win. It will be an uphill battle to close out the season on top and Collier says the team is plugged in and knows what they need to focus on to make a big run.

“Being ourselves, buying into the defense and rebounding the basketball. That’s going to help us a lot,” Collier said.

USC will play No. 19 Washington State on Friday and close out the season against No. 6 Arizona on March 9 before heading to the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. Two tough matchups against top-ranked teams that could give Collier and the Trojans that spark and momentum heading into postseason play. With Collier’s return to the court, NBA scouts and executives are hoping to get a closer look at the talented guard before the draft in June. Collier is focused on only one thing.

“I’m just hoping to show them [NBA scouts] that we can win, that I can win,” Collier said. “It’s just coming back and helping the team the best as I can and be that leader on the floor.”

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