UConn women's basketball's Collier continues hot stretch, emerging as awards candidate

Published on Sunday, 10 February 2019 21:46
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Before Napheesa Collier takes the court for the UConn women’s basketball team she has a little pep talk with herself.

“I actually say this to myself before practice that, ‘I need to work as hard as I can today,’ “ Collier said. “I’m a strong believer that even if your shots are not going in you can control how hard you’re working, whether it’s with steals or hustle plays, whatever. I come in with a mindset ‘I have to get better today.’ “

And, really, has the Huskies’ senior ever been better than she is right now?

Collier had 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting from the floor, 14 rebounds, six assists to no turnovers, and three blocked shots in 31 minutes Saturday as No. 5 UConn rolled past Temple 109-74 in American Athletic Conference action before an announced sellout crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion.

“That mindset has really helped me and made me more consistent because every day is fresh,” Collier said. “I’m always trying to get better rather than go through the motions.”

In her last seven games, a stretch that started with a 30-point effort against Temple on Jan. 19, Collier is averaging 23.7 points on 66.3 percent shooting, 9.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0, and 2.6 blocked shots.

The St. Charles, Missouri, resident is second in the AAC in scoring to Temple’s Mia Davis at 19.3 and leads the league in rebounding at 9.9. She also second in field-goal percentage at 60.5 and in blocked shots at 1.6.

“She’s putting numbers and stats that are just ridiculous,” UConn senior Katie Lou Samuelson said. “She has a good feel that she gets herself involved in every single play. It’s really important for her to keep doing that because we need it more than ever.

“This is nothing shocking to us. It’s awesome. We see it every day and it’s great that everyone else is seeing it.”

Collier, a consensus first-team All-American in 2017, has emerged as the leading candidate for AAC Player of the Year honors (she shared the award with Samuelson two years ago) and is gaining attention on the national campaign.

“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 that I have been a part of with Connecticut basketball,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She is just about duplicating that. I don’t know that there is a better player anywhere that does as much every night. I’m sure people already made up their mind about who the best player in the country is, or who the national Player of the Year is, but I just don’t know that there is anyone that on every single night does all the things that Naphessa does.”

But Collier is a quiet one, though her actions speak loudly.

“Phee’s just so involved in everything,” Samuelson said. “It doesn’t get much better than what you saw today from her.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Sunday, 10 February 2019 21:46. Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2019 21:49.