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Zach Collins started in the post, created space from a defender and then darted to the left wing. There, he caught a pass and launched a 3-pointer.

“That’s off,” the Gonzaga big man said, an accurate assessment as the ball fell short, bouncing off the front of the rim.

Collins, who had an individual workout for the Suns on Tuesday, is an example of how quickly things change in today’s basketball universe. Just more than two months ago, he was 18 miles down the road, coming off the bench for Gonzaga in the national championship game. It’s not a fond memory.

Despite starring in Gonzaga’s national semifinals win over South Carolina, the 6-11 freshman battled foul trouble against North Carolina in the final, playing only 14 minutes in a 71-65 loss. After the Phoenix workout, Collins was asked if he realized at the time that the championship would be his last time wearing the Gonzaga uniform.

“I had no idea,” he said. “I knew it was a possibility, but at the time that wasn’t in my head. What was in my head is that we lost. And you just go everything in your head that you could’ve done better to win.”

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It’s not like Collins came from nowhere. In high school, he was a McDonald’s All-American with scholarship offers from schools such as Arizona, UCLA and Oregon. At the same time, he played behind Przemek Karnowski most of his freshman season, coming off the bench in every game, averaging just 17.2 minutes.

Despite the lack of playing time, Collins’ potential was hard to ignore. With a soft shooting touch around the basket, he shot 67.2 percent from 2-point range, but what stood out most was his motor. There’s nothing finesse about Collins. Despite ranking seventh in minutes, he attempted 148 free throws, second-most on the team. According to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced stats, Collins drew an estimated 6.5 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranked 48th nationally.

All of these skills were on display in Gonzaga’s Final Four win over South Carolina. After a second-half South Carolina charge, Collins helped Gonzaga pull away with his intensity on both ends. He finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. Coincidentally, he also hit the biggest shot of the game – and probably the ugliest – a second-half 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim and rolled in.

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“If I didn’t play well in the tournament, who knows if I’d be here right now,” said Collins, the first one-and-done player in Gonzaga history.

Although the Suns likely won’t target Collins with their No. 4 pick, the big man would be an option if they decide to trade down in the June 22 draft. Most experts have Collins going off the board somewhere between 10 and 15. To start, he might spend most of his time at power forward but eventually teams expect him to play center as well.

“He’s one of those intriguing bigs (who) can stretch the floor but he also has a certain amount of toughness where if you put him around the rim he’s really effective,” Phoenix Assistant General Manager Pat Connelly said. “He didn’t show his 3 ball as much at Gonzaga, but he was really effective and his stroke from NBA 3 looks pretty comfortable.”

Phoenix was Collins’ fourth workout. He also has worked out for Orlando, Sacramento and Minnesota. Upon leaving Phoenix, he said he has a workout scheduled for Dallas on Thursday and he’ll be in Los Angeles on Monday.

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“I know the Suns like skilled players at every position, not just the guard position,” Collins said. “I think I can fit here well, especially with their play style. They’re tough guys. They like to get up and down. They’re really well-coached. I think I’d fit well in that system.”

Notes

In addition to Collins, the Suns recently worked out Duke small forward Jayson Tatum and met with Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac. Both players are candidates for their No. 4 slot. Connelly’s impressions:

On Isaac: “He’s a good player. He’s long, he’s skilled. He’s multidimensional. He’s a really good kid. The Florida State guys did a good job with him. He’s another guy that can kind of really mix it up and doesn’t have really one specific skill that you can kind of say he relies on. He can do a whole of things really well.”

On Tatum: “He’s really skilled. He’s a really good shooter. As he came back from his (foot) injury at Duke, he showed he was one of the better players in the nation down the stretch. The whole season he played really well, but he really kind of found his feet later in the season. Really skilled. Good size and he can do a bunch of different things.”

Contact Doug Haller at 602-444-4949 or at [email protected] Follow him at Twitter.com/DougHaller

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