Stu Durando wrote a really interesting article on Yuri Collins yesterday that went in-depth on his decision to enter the transfer portal and come back to SLU, among other things. It’s a great article that I highly recommend any SLU and A10 fan read. It also spurred some thoughts about Collins, his place in Billiken history and among SLU fans, and NIL.
Yuri Collins’ decision to enter the portal led to one of the most stressful weeks of the year for Billiken fans (though based on Stu’s article it seems it was more stressful for Yuri, which makes sense). Even though he ultimately decided to come back, it seems merely entering the portal has left a bad taste in a minority of Billiken fans’ mouths. I suppose this article is partially a rebuttal to those people—who again, are the minority, potentially making this an “and people said Steph Curry couldn’t shoot” articles—but mostly it’s an appreciation of Yuri Collins.
To recap some of the drama: Collins’ announcement that he was entering the portal came a few days after he announced the launch of his merchandise line, which was an unfortunate decision. I’ll be the first to admit I criticized Collins for his timing on leaving and I think it’s a fair criticism, especially since it initially seemed there was no cancellation policy on the merch. However, that’s the absolute extent to which he should get any criticism, and ultimately, it’s a mild PR blunder. Had he left and not allowed SLU fans to cancel their orders, it’d be a completely different story, but that’s not what happened. No one got scammed, Yuri Collins is a Billiken, all is well.
By all accounts, Collins is a great guy, and I cannot imagine how overwhelming it is being 21 years old and having the opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, which I’m sure he had the opportunity to do in the portal. Frankly, it’s fairly astounding that he decided to return to SLU, and it speaks volumes to his connection to both SLU and his hometown of St. Louis. He clearly recognizes it for the special place it is, and Billikens fans are really lucky that he does.
Yuri Collins will play four years as a Saint Louis Billiken, just as was hoped for when he signed out of St. Mary’s High School. He’s one of the greatest Billiken point guards of all time, and already holds pretty much every school assist record there is. He might be under-the-radar nationally (or Unknown as he might say), but he’s been incredible in STL and he’ll be set for a great pro career, potentially even the NBA. He’s fulfilled any theoretical covenant he might have with SLU fans and he’ll get an incredible send-off on Senior Night. I can’t imagine he’ll return for a 5th year at SLU, and I don’t care at all. Yuri Collins has done all that is asked of him and is one of the greatest Billikens of all times. Decades from now, Billikens fans will be talking about his play, remembering specific passes he made and reminiscing about his George Mason buzzer beater. Even better, he has another season to make even more great moments.
One of the more interesting things about Collins’ decision to come back is, according to Stu Durando’s article, SLU didn’t put together a huge NIL package or anything. To be honest, I almost rather money was the motivation for Collins, because in the NIL era, players who come back for the reasons Yuri did are likely going to be rare. It’s a new era and SLU will need to adapt if it wants to succeed. Right now, however, the Billikens are poised for their best year in the Travis Ford era, and Yuri Collins is at the center of it all. That’s pretty cool.