Jimmy Collins, the leading scorer on NMSU's 1969-70 Final Four team, passed away this morning at the age of 74. Collins is the only player in the history of the Aggies men's basketball program to be named to an All-America team three times in his career. The Syracuse, New York native also helped lead NMSU to three NCAA Tournament appearances during his time with the Aggies. The shooting guard still holds the team records for most points in a season (754) and field goals made in a season (322), while ranking third all time in scoring (1,734 points).

Collins never lost to UTEP during his three seasons with the Aggies, a pretty spectacular feat considering the Miners had Nate "Tiny" Archibald. During the 1969-70 season, he averaged 24.6 points per game to lead NMSU along with 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He was selected 11th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1970 NBA Draft. Teammate Sam Lacey went fifth overall to the Cincinnati Royals, while Archibald went 19th overall (second pick in the second round) also to the Royals. That famed 1970 draft also featured Bob Lanier, Pete Maravich, Dave Cowens, and Rudy Tomjanovich.

Collins played only two seasons with the Bulls in the NBA and then another half season in the ABA with the Carolina Cougars. However, he rejoined Lou Henson as an assistant with the University of Illinois in 1983 and Collins spent 13 seasons with him before taking over the University of Chicago Illinois in 1996. Over the next 14 seasons, he led the Flames to three NCAA Tournament appearances before announcing his retirement in 2010.

In late July of this year, I had an opportunity to interview Collins and longtime assistant coach Rus Bradburd on SportsTalk to reminisce about their longtime coach and friend Lou Henson, who had passed away just days earlier. During the nearly one hour conversation, Collins also spoke about his time with the Aggies as well as his own head coaching career with UIC. Here is a link to that show's podcast on Spotify and on iTunes. The Collins interview can be heard at the 1:04:00 mark of the Apple iTunes podcast. Simply put, Jimmy Collins was a class act and beloved by the entire Aggie Nation. He will be greatly missed.

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