The return of Colin Smalls: A force to reckon with during his sophomore season
Sophomore guard adds new depth to the Eagles starting lineup
The American University Eagles’ men’s basketball season only played 10 games in the 2021 season. For Colin Smalls, his freshman season was cut even shorter.
Only a minute into his first game as an Eagle, Smalls sustained a groin injury that kept him from playing for 35 days. After returning to the court to finish his freshman season, Smalls saw significant playing time, averaging 18.9 minutes per game.
His freshman season performance was only a sign of what was to come.
“Colin’s always been a mentally strong guy,” teammate Chris Gleaton said. “So coming back from the injury, although it was a setback, I knew he’d get through it.”
Returning for his sophomore season as an Eagle, Smalls has proved he is a force to be reckoned with, dominating the floor on both ends. Starting 25 games this season, Smalls is contributing an average of 10.6 points per game and 2 assists and scoring double digits in 10 games so far.
Head coach Mike Brennan believes that Smalls’ comeback stems from his ability to not get down on himself when faced with difficulty and instead push through.
Small’s impact was the most noticeable when the Eagles took on Duquesne University in Pennsylvania. The sophomore led the team in both points and assists, putting up an impressive 22 points and 7 assists.
Smalls believes his biggest strength is being a playmaker. Whether making a play for himself or a teammate, he finds that getting an assist or steal will always lead to momentum on the other end.
“I think that the biggest difference from this season to last season was to gain the experience that I wasn’t able to get last year,” Smalls said.
That newly gained experience has led Colin to a new role on the team.
“There’s a delicate balance where we need Colin to be aggressive and to try to do a lot, but also share the ball and make sure that he’s getting other guys involved in the game,” Brennan said.“That’s always sort of a difficult balance for a young player. And I think he’s handling it terrifically.”
Small’s playstyle is exactly what the Eagles were looking for when they announced they would fill the shoes of Sa’eed Nelson, the all-time leading scorer in AU history. His graduation would leave the point guard position left vacant for Smalls to fill.
“We were excited when we got him as a recruit. Not just because he’s a good player; he’s a hard worker, he’s a good kid, good student,” Brennan said. “He’s everything you could ask for. Having someone in your program, this is what you want. This is the ideal student-athlete.”
Gleaton said Small influences the team off the court too.
“It’s been great having him on the team,” Gleaton said. “We love him. Couldn’t ask for a better teammate or a better friend.”
Along with Smalls, AU does have potential in their roster to be a championship team, most notably leading scorer Stacy Beckton Jr., reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Johnny O’Neil, and with important contributions from Matt Rogers and Connor Nelson.
Smalls said he believes if the Eagles focus on playing hard for all 40 minutes, communicating, and getting the job done, they’ll be hard to beat for the rest of the season and will bring that momentum going forward.
“I know what I’m gonna get from Colin. I know what kind of effort,” Brennan said. “He’s always gonna be ready. He pushes through.”