Darren Collison brings intangible leadership to Sacramento Kings

Sacramento Kings' point guard Darren Collison gets up shots at practice. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

When Darren Collison signed with the Sacramento Kings, he talked plenty about leadership. Now, it’s one thing to talk about the concept of leading. It’s another thing to show it.

The season has yet to begin, but the 27-year-old point guard has wholeheartedly embraced his role as one of the leaders of the Sacramento Kings. Collison made a point of reaching out to new teammates as soon as he signed and even spent some of his offseason working out with a few of them.

“We had some time to bond in the summer,” Collison said at Sacramento Kings Media Day. “I wanted that to be the first time. It’s always good to bond with your teammates early on. Try to get more familiar because, you know our chemistry, we gotta work on our chemistry. We haven’t played with each other but you know, we kind of gotta feel each other out personality-wise.”

Ben McLemore was one of the guys Collison reached out to individually. The Southern California native found out the second-year shooting guard was training in Los Angeles this summer, so he decided to invite McLemore to work out with him at UCLA and Loyola Marymount. Collison put the onus on himself to get on the same page with McLemore, who could potentially be starting with him in the backcourt on opening night.

“Ben, in particular, he has a pretty good understanding of the game,” Collison said of the second-year shooting guard. “He comes off real quiet. But if you really talk to him, he understands the game at a high level and that’s always good for being a young player.”

In addition to working out with McLemore, Collison was one of several players who reported to Sacramento sooner than required. The veteran point guard returned to the capital city in early September and got to work with more of his new teammates, including rookie Nik Stauskas.

“He works extremely hard,” the 20-year-old shooting guard said of Collison. “He’s the guy that after practice, he’s pulling me to the side and asking to get extra shots up with me. He’s one of the first guys always here in the morning; he’s getting treatment done. You can just see, he handles himself like a true professional and he really treats this like his job.”

The Sacramento Kings are learning that Collison doesn’t just talk about being a good example. The veteran point guard prides himself on taking actionable steps toward being a positive influence in the locker room. As a steward of the game, he holds himself accountable when it comes to making sure that younger teammates like Stauskas and McLemore reach their full potential.

“You know, it’s our responsibilities as one of the leaders and veteran players on the team to make sure they’re on the right path getting there,” Collison said. “I had good veteran leadership when I was young. It’s their turn too, as well, so you gotta continue to try and walk them through. Just have them understand what it takes to be a professional.”

The professionalism and leadership Collison has displayed so far with the Sacramento Kings has made quite the impression on many of his younger teammates. Rookie big man Eric Moreland has never played with a point guard that’s taken command of the floor quite like Collison. For Moreland, it’s a breath of fresh air to be teaming up with someone who can guide him along the way.

“I didn’t really have that in college like as far as that point guard being such a vocal guy and knowing exactly what the team needs,” Moreland said of Collison. “He’s a leader and he knows what he’s talking about.”

Ray McCallum is not nearly as surprised as Moreland is about the intangible qualities Collison brings to the Sacramento Kings. They may be competing for minutes, but the second-year point guard is eager to learn what he can from his older, more experienced teammate.

“It’s another guy you can learn from and pick their brain,” McCallum said. “I’m a student of the game. I’m always trying to get better so (I) ask him as many questions and just kind of watch the way he does things and follow his lead.”

Talent-wise, Collison may not stack up individually to some of the top point guards in the league. But talent is just one part of the equation. There is hope from the Sacramento Kings that Collison’s intangibles as a leader will contribute to the improvement of this year’s team.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.