Napheesa Collierâs sophomore jinx isnât that something all that bad is happening, itâs just the UConn womenâs basketball teamâs forward was just too good two years ago.
During her All-American season of 2017, Collier shot 67.8 percent from the floor. Itâs the only single-season percentage in the top five of Huskiesâ history not produced by all-time leader Tamika Williams (1998-2002).
Last year, Collier made 58.3 percent of her shots. Entering Wednesday nightâs American Athletic Conference game with Cincinnati), she is third in the AAC at 57.2 percent.
And itâs just not good enough.
âItâs frustrating because when Iâm practicing theyâre all going in,â Collier said. âThen I get into a game and theyâre not. I have to hope theyâre going to start dropping and keep shooting.â
While Collierâs overall percentage is solid, she is at just 22.2 percent from 3-point land (4-for-18). And after entering her final year fifth at UConn in free-throw percentage at 82.3, sheâs at 64.9 through 13 games (37 for 57. Two years ago, she missed just 25 from the line in 137 attempts.
And, honestly, some have looked ugly.
âIâm thinking about it because Iâm trying to make sure that Iâm doing everything that Iâm supposed to do,â Collier said.
During the last offseason, Collier worked with Alex Bazzell - an NBA/WNBA skills trainer with whom she has trained since her junior year at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis - on changing the release of her jump shot.
Collier shot 34.3 percent from 3-point land as a junior when she took as many shots from behind the arc (64) as she did her first two years combined. At 6-foot-1, she knows the 3 must be a part of her game in order to be effective in the WNBA.
âThe only thing I tried to change was my 3, just the form of it,â Collier said. âIt feels a lot better than it used to though Iâm shooting less.â
Itâs a strange coincidence, Collier went 2-for-4 from 3-point land in last Thursdayâs loss at Baylor that saw her have the poorest shooting night of her career percentage-wise (minimum 10 attempts) at 33.3. She was just 6-for-18 against the Bears as she was limited inside by 6-4 Lauren Cox and 6-7 Kalani Brown.
Collier rebounded in the win over Houston Sunday, going 7-for-10 and finishing with 18 points.
âThink about that ... A kid that made every single shot had to change her shot,â UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. âShe changed it and so itâs not as good. I hope sheâs happy. I talked to her about it the other day. I said, âYou need to clear your mind of all this stuff.â She spent a lot of time shooting in practice. It will take some time. She just doesnât have a lot of confidence in it right now. That will come. Every player goes through it. It will be back to where it was.
âShe just hasnât gotten into any kind of a flow this year. She doesnât have the same feel she had in the past. How do you fix that? You go into the gym and you shoot a bunch of shots and watch yourself on film. Shooting is a funny thing. When youâre confident you think the basket is as big as a ocean. When youâre not, you donât think the ball is going in again. Everyone goes through it. For us itâs tough because we donât have a lot of scorers and we need her. Her perimeter shooting is a huge part of our offense.â
Even with the struggles she has had, the St. Charles, Missouri, resident is still on pace to become the first UConn player since Rebecca Lobo in 1994 to average a double-double.
Collier ranks fourth in the AAC in scoring (18.4), second in rebounding (10.4), ninth in assists (3.6), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7), and fourth in blocked shots (1.1). Her No. 24 will go into the Huskies of Honor at Gampel Pavilion on her Senior Day, March 2.
Ark.-Little Rock on schedule
UConn announced Tuesday that it agreed to a home-and-home series with Arkansas-Little Rock that will set up a homecoming for Little Rock native Christyn Williams in her senior season of 2021-22. UALR will visit UConn in 2020-21 and that will be the first meeting between the schools.