Oct. 15, 2005
ATLANTA – Former Georgia Tech forward Jason Collier, who played for the Yellow Jackets from 1998-2000 and was about to begin his third NBA season with the Atlanta Hawks, died suddenly early Saturday morning at the age of 28.
The 7-foot Collier, a native of Springfield, Ohio, who made his home in the Atlanta area, is being remembered as a tremendous teammate, devoted family man and friend. He had played in the NBA for five seasons and returned to Tech during that time to finish his degree in management.
“This is very a sad day for everyone at Georgia Tech,” said Tech coach Paul Hewitt. “Our prayers go out to his family, teammates and coaches. We got to know Jason over the last five years, and I’m sure everyone would agree that Jason was a class young man.”
The funeral mass for Collier tentatively will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at All Saints Catholic Church at 2443 Mount Vernon Highway in Dunwoody. A visitation has been scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at McDonald & Son Funeral Home at 150 Sawnee Drive in Cumming, Ga.
“We are deeply, deeply stunned and saddened by the tragic death of Jason Collier. It’s another reminder of how precious life is,” said Tech director of athletics Dave Braine. “I had the pleasure of getting to know Jason when he was here at Georgia Tech. What a great young man and a great representative of Georgia Tech. He overcame a lot to make it in the NBA and had a bright future of ahead of him. And he came back and got his degree. On behalf of everyone in the Georgia Tech family, we extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to Jason’s wife and family.”
Collier, whose father Jeff played four years for Tech in the 1970s, is survived by his wife Katie and a daughter, Elezan.
“I would have let Jason watch my kids all day, and I think that says a lot,” Willie Reese, Tech’s current director of basketball operations and an assistant coach on the Yellow Jackets’ staff during Collier’s senior year at Tech. “He was a humble guy and a very hard worker. We used to have to kick him out of the gym. He would invite me to come up to his house at the lake, because he knew I had a bass boat.
“He’s the type of guy you wish would play in the NBA for 10 years, because he’s a professional and is a good role model. That’s the type of person you want in the NBA, and the type of person you want at Georgia Tech.”
Former Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who recruited Collier out of high school and coached him after he transferred from Indiana, said, “I’ll almost remember how well he played in his first game (a win over Georgia). He was a great kid, a wonderful young man. I knew him and his family very well.
“He surprised me about three months ago when a friend of his got married in Hilton Head. He never called, just walked in the house. He was a happy-go-lucky kid. He married an Atlanta girl and adopted Atlanta as his hometown. He came back and got his degree, which I was very proud of.
“He went through some rough times. He was in the league, then he went to the development league for a time. But he got back in and had a guaranteed contract. He accomplished a lot and overcame a lot of obstacles to make it where he is.”
Collier averaged 17.1 points and 8.3 points in two seasons for Tech after transferring from Indiana, and earned second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honors both years with the Yellow Jackets. Collier was the 15th overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft by Milwaukee, who traded him to Houston. After three seasons with the Rockets and a short stint in the NBDL, he was signed by the Hawks before the 2003-04 season. He averaged 5.7 points and 2.6 rebounds in 70 games for the Hawks last year.