Dustin Collins adds grit to Ranger lineup

By Ivan Sanders

   In athletic competition, the true grit of an individual is often measured by that person's willingness to go above and beyond the norm with a fearless mentality.
   Dustin Collins of the Unaka Rangers is a perfect example of an athlete that mirrors such a mental fortitude on the hardwood.
   "Dustin Collins is fearless," stated Ranger head coach Donald Ensor. "He has made more big shots for us than you could imagine."
   Ensor added, "If there are two seconds left in the game, he's the one that wants the ball in his hands."
   Collins wasn't for sure where he would end up playing his high school ball when he was in middle school.
   "I had thought about going to Elizabethton," stated Collins. "Coach Johnny Ensor came and talked to us about Unaka, and I decided Unaka was where I was going to come."
   The folks on Stoney Creek are glad that Collins made his decision to become a contributing member of the Rangers basketball program.
   Collins had nothing but high praise for the community and it's support of the Unaka program.
   "These people are the greatest basketball fans anywhere," stated Collins. "It makes you proud to were the maroon and white."
   Collins commitment to the program has been demonstrated in many ways.
   "He is a very hard worker who has never missed a practice," stated Ensor. "He has never missed unless I just made him sit down because he was absolutely too sick and couldn't go."
   Many players have a hard time playing in the lime-light of two stellar performers like Aaron Dugger and Ben Cole, but not Dustin Collins.
   "I try to get the ball to them anytime I can," commented Collins. "It's also my responsibility to get open for them, especially if they are being double-teamed, and just be ready to hit the shot."
   Collins is capable of having big scoring games himself. If you don't believe that, just ask Coach Charlie Bayless of Happy Valley.
   Dustin tickled the twine to the tune of 27 points against the Warriors in their first meeting, and is capable of that every game if he looked for his shot more.
   "He is such a great passer," stated Ensor. " There are times I wished he would shoot the ball a little more."
   It is not an unknown fact that Dustin has his eyes set on playing basketball at the collegiate level after graduation. His hopes are that the dynamic trio from Unaka can be reunited in college.
   "It would be great to be able to play college ball with Ben and Aaron," stated Collins.
   There have been some colleges showing interest in Collins, and possibly the chance of snagging all three of Unaka's big fish together.
   "Dustin definitely has the ability and skills to play at the next level," said Ensor.
   Unaka is on the verge of taking it's fifth straight conference title this year, and Collins has been a center piece on the past three. He feels that the chances are good that this year will be number four.
   "I feel like if we keep playing hard defense, our offense will be there," stated Collins. " Everybody can't be hitting every night, so defense is the one thing that always has to be there."
   When asked if there was any advice that he could give future Ranger players, Collins had some good instructions to give.
   "Be proud of the fact you have the opportunity to wear the maroon and white of a Unaka Ranger," commented Collins. "Also, remember that to be a full athlete, you must be willing to work year round, not just during the season at hand."
   By all indications, Collins has followed his own sound advice to a tee. It will be surprising if Dustin Collins isn't a name heard often from the collegiate level, as well, because he has all the right tools.
   One thing you can be sure of, he isn't afraid to tackle any mountain that may be standing in front of him and his goal.