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Freedom’s all-time scoring leader has sights set high

Senior Zyan Collins rises for a shot during a Jan. 12 game versus Broad Run. Collins is Freedom’s career record holder for points, steals, assists, rebounds and free throws.—Times-Mirror/Rick Wasser
On Jan. 3, in a Potomac District boys’ basketball game, Freedom High School’s Zyan Collins sank a free throw just like he’d done so often before.

But this one was different. This single point pushed Collins past any other player who’d ever suited up in black and gold for the 13-year-old South Riding program, making him the Eagles’ all-time leader in points scored with 1,043.

It’s a crowning accolade for a player who’s already grabbed more rebounds, made more free throws, swiped more steals and handed out more assists than any other Eagle.

The game was momentarily halted as the achievement was announced inside the Freedom gymnasium to robust applause, which a smiling Collins waved to acknowledge. Then his face returned to game mode, and he stepped back in for his next shot.

Though what Collins remembers most about that night is how his team, coming from behind scored a big early-season win.

“We were down most of that game and had to fight back into it, really played defense in the fourth quarter,” he said of the 61-55 triumph. “We got the W. That was the best part about it.”

A four-year varsity hoopster who also manned wideout and cornerback on the Eagles’ football squad, Collins is accustomed to working within a team. He grew up in a basketball-crazy household, with sister Arnelle and brother Zachary preceding Zyan on Freedom’s courts.

Arnelle is currently a starting senior guard for King University. Zachary is now a sophomore guard for Wheeling Jesuit University. Zyan wants to follow in their footsteps, even if it is to someplace else.

He reported receiving interest from Radford, Mount St. Mary’s, Lafayette, LaSalle, Concord, Catawba and a host of others, with solid offers forthcoming.

“The Division I schools are waiting to see how I finish my senior year,” said the versatile 6-foot-3 student-athlete.

In a narrow victory on the road Jan. 12, Collins displayed his overall basketball acumen. In addition to scoring 16 second-half points in Freedom’s 64-61 win at Broad Run, Collins hit a couple 3-pointers, dished five assists, hauled in seven rebounds, blocked a shot at a key moment and drove the lane for several buckets when his team needed them most.

One of his assists came to longtime teammate and friend Jeremy Cofield, whose basket became the winning points. Collins’ own 19 points were, of course, a team-high.

“It’s his intensity. I’ve had kids who’ve been pure scorers but don’t care about defense. Zyan’s the all-time leader in steals too,” Freedom’s fifth-year head coach Justin Powers pointed out.

“He loves to fly around. We can rely on him getting a big rebound, getting a big steal. He offers so much more than scoring because he’s a complete player.”

Collins has always enjoyed all aspects of the game. His favorite play to pull off, he said, is outpositioning and elevating over a bigger man to seize a rebound.

He acquired the nickname “Z-Money” from a youth coach when he was 10, recognizing the young man’s penchant for on-court leadership. It has since become his social-media moniker.

“Between those lines, I’m a leader, I’m a captain,” he said. “If coach says something and I don’t echo it, it’s my fault if we mess it up. I need to lock in and be vocal on the court.”

On Jan. 11, Collins learned via tweet that he’d been nominated to this year’s McDonald’s All-American team, making him eligible to be chosen for a televised all-star game.

“I was psyched. That means a lot to me,” Collins said. “That puts me in there with all the dudes who have offers, ESPN Top 100 guys. It feels good. That was really exciting.”

As Collins is playing for a future collegiate program to be decided, he’s also playing for his current school and teammates.

“I love basketball,” Collins declared. “But all these accolades, I don’t get them without my team. We got to win our conference and keep making noise.”

Powers called Collins “a great kid” who jokes around with teammates off the court but is business-like on it.

“It’s going to be weird not having a Collins next year,” the coach lamented.

Zyan Collins

-School: Freedom

-Grade: Senior

-Sport: Basketball

-Height: 6-foot-3

-Position: Guard

-School records: Career points, steals, assists, rebounds, free throws

-Nominated: McDonald’s All-American

-Nickname: Z-Money

-Sister plays at: King University

-Brother plays at: Wheeling Jesuit University

-Aspiration: Play Division I college basketball

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