Darren Collison came to UCLA in 2005 as a four-star recruit from Rancho Cucamonga, California.
Collison is exactly what you look for in a collegiate athlete and would’ve excelled in any program. He stayed all four years and is tied for most games played in UCLA history with 142.
After spending his first year as Jordan Farmar’s primary backup, he started 35 games the following season, earning himself All Pac-10 First Team and All-American Second Team honors. During this season, he had averages of 33 minutes per game, 12.7 points, 5.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field, 44.7 percent from beyond the arc and 81 percent from the line.
In his junior year campaign, he would go on to start in 32 of the 33 games he played in. His season averages remained nearly identical, but he wound up setting UCLA’s single-season three-point field goal percentage record by making 53-of-101 tries (52.5 percent).
His awards for this season included All Pac-10 Second Team, All-American Third Team, Pac-10 All-Defensive Team, and he was a Bob Cousy Award finalist.
Collison’s final season resulted in another All Pac-10 First Team and All-American honorable mention, yet that might have been the most disappointing finish in his collegiate career, the season ending in a second-round defeat.
It is no coincidence that Collison’s tenure at UCLA coincided with Howland’s most successful years. During his four years at school, UCLA advanced in the NCAA tournament each year, twice losing in the Final Four and once in the national championship game.
His 1,639 points rank 16th all-time at UCLA, while finishing fourth all-time in three-point percentage (43.5 percent), third in free-throw percentage (85.1 percent), fifth in assists (577) and second in steals (231).
Collison’s leadership, consistency and accountability make him the most influential player of the Howland era, as he proved to be the motor behind the Bruins’ aggressive style of man-to-man defense.