Geno Auriemma calls Napheesa Collier a machine.
The 6-foot-2 senior forward from O’Fallon, Missouri, was a freshman on the UConn squad that won the program’s 11th national championship. However, once seniors Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson all graduated, Collier was forced to take on a much bigger role with the Huskies. At the end of her sophomore year she was named an AP First Team All-American, and a WBCA First Team All-American. She was second on the team in scoring with 16.1 points-per-game.
“Those people that were around two years ago when she was a sophomore, I think they got to see one of the all-time great seasons ever, that I’ve been a part of anyway, at Connecticut basketball and she’s just about duplicating that,” head coach Geno Auriemma said about Collier’s play.
Now in her senior season, Collier has played seven-straight games in which she has scored 20 points or more and has accumulated 12 double-doubles.
“I can’t say enough about how many minutes she plays, no matter where we’re playing, no matter who she’s playing against, she just is at a different space than everybody else,” Auriemma said about Collier after she went 10-for-10 from the field against ECU on Wednesday night.
In Saturday afternoons’ 109-74 win against Temple, Collier tied her season-high in points with 30 and grabbed 14 rebounds. After the game, she talked about the mindset she uses to help elevate her game.
“I say to myself before every practice, ‘I need to work as hard as I can today’ because I’m a really strong believer that if your shots aren’t going in you can always control how hard you’re working and other things like steals or hustle plays or deflections or stuff like that,” Collier said.
She began employing that mindset after catching herself in a slump where she told herself ‘oh we have another practice’ if she wasn’t playing well.
“Changing that mindset for me has really helped me become more consistent because every day’s fresh and you’re trying to get better instead of going through the motions,” Collier said.
Her goal is for teammates to have absolute trust in her on the court, something that she seems to already have earned, according to senior Katie Lou Samuelson.
“She just seems like she’s always in the right spot, always knows where her best scoring ability is, where she’s going to have the most success and she’s really developed into a whole all-around game with assists and passing,” Samuelson said.
On Monday night the Huskies will take on No. 12 South Carolina at the XL Center in Hartford. Collier will surely be a big part of UConn’s offense and her consistency will be key.
“She’s putting up numbers and stats that are ridiculous,” Samuelson said. “She kinda just has a good feel for the ball. She gets herself in every single play it seems like and it’s really important for her to keep doing that. We need it.”
While the rest of the Huskies season is yet to be seen, Auriemma does truly know one thing about Collier.
“There haven’t been a lot of players like her that I’ve seen, a few, but not a lot,” Auriemma said.
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.