Jalen Collins prides himself on his ability to do more than score for the Triton basketball team.
He can rebound, with a team-high average of 9.5 boards. He can block shots. He can handle the ball against defensive pressure.
He also can score.
In fact, nobody in South Jersey has been a better scorer in February than Collins.
“Before every game, we have a little meeting and I’ll tell him, ‘Go out and dominate,’ ” coach Andrew Canzanese said. “That’s what he’s doing.”
Consider Collins’ point total in his last seven games: 31, 31, 33, 27, 35, 39, and 45. He has set a career high five times in that stretch, all starting with a Feb. 3 clash with Cherry Hill East.
“It’s just been getting more comfortable with my role, studying the game, getting more confident,” Collins said Wednesday during a break in practice at the school in Runnemede. “It’s knowing I have the trust of my teammates and my coach, knowing that they trust me in key situations, and trying to step up for my team.”
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The 6-foot-6 Collins, a clever lefthander, has done more than raise his season scoring average to 24.7 points. He also has pushed Triton back into the conversation among teams to watch in South Jersey.
That’s the most impressive thing about his late-season surge. He’s brought the team along with him, as Triton (8-14) has won three in a row and four of six.
“We’ve worked through a lot of things and now we’re really playing together,” Collins said.
Collins’ play in the last week in victories over Highland (35 points, nine rebounds, three steals), Gloucester Catholic (39 points, 10 rebounds, two three-pointers), and Deptford (45 points, 14 rebounds two blocks) represents one of the most imposing three-game stretches by any athlete in South Jersey this season.
Beyond the numbers, Collins has worked to make his teammates better, the true mark of a top player.
“He’s embracing that role,” Canzanese said. “That’s being the best player on the floor, not just dominating yourself, but making your teammates better.”
Collins, an 18-year-old who lives in Blackwood, is uncertain of his college plans. He said prep school is a possibility, but he would prefer to enroll in a four-year school.
Canzanese thinks Collins’ best basketball is ahead of him.
“He has a chance to be really special,” Canzanese said. “He’s still maturing, still developing.”
Collins is a four-year varsity athlete and three-year starter at Triton. He averaged 13 a game last season, as the Mustangs invigorated the school’s student body with a tournament run that ended with a memorable home loss to district rival Timber Creek in South Jersey Group 3 action.
Collins has been playing at a high level for most of his senior season, with 25 points and 10 rebounds against 12th-ranked Delsea and 26 points and 11 rebounds against 18th-ranked Glassboro.
But he’s been something else in February. And his torrid play has the Mustangs looming as a dangerous No. 15 seed in the upcoming South Jersey Group 3 tournament.
“As far as that,” Collins said of Triton’s seed, “we’re embracing the underdog role.”