The vote figured to be close. But at the end and after the ballots were counted, Napheesa Collier was a clear winner in the race for WNBA Rookie of the Year.
The Minnesota Lynx forward’s victory was first reported Sunday night by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and by ESPN and announced by the league Monday morning. Collier received 29 votes from a media panel, with the other 14 votes going to Dallas Wings’ guard Arike Ogunbowale.
Collier is the fifth former UConn player to be so honored, joining Diana Taurasi (2004), Tina Charles (2010), Maya Moore (2011), and Breanna Stewart (2016). Collier, though, is the first from UConn to be selected having not been the overall No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. The St. Charles, Missouri, resident was taken sixth by the Lynx in April.
A two-time All-American and two-time American Athletic Conference Player of the Year with the Huskies, Collier averaged 13.1 points (shooting 49.0 percent from the floor, 36.1 percent from 3-point land, and 79.2 percent from the foul line), 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.9 blocked shots in a league-leading 33.1 minutes for the Lynx. She was the only player in the WNBA to rank in the top 30 in scoring (21st), field-goal percentage (16th), rebounds (15th), assists (26th), steals (fourth), and blocked shots (15th).
Among WNBA rookies, Collier led in steals, ranked second in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and field-goal percentage, and finished third in assists and 3-point percentage. She was also the only rookie selected to play in the All-Star Game this season.
She made the move from the power forward position for UConn to small forward spot in Minnesota look seamless and became the fourth different player in WNBA history to amass over 400 points, 200 rebounds, 75 assists, 50 steals, 25 blocked shots, and 25 3-pointers in a single season. The others are Moore (three times), Tamika Catchings (seven times), and Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes.
Playing without long-time stars Moore, Lindsay Whalen, and Rebekah Brunson, and almost all season without Seimone Augustus, the Lynx made their way back to the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year with an 18-16 record. Their season ended last Wednesday with a loss to the Seattle Storm in the first round that saw Collier record a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Ogunbowale finished third in the WNBA in scoring at 19.1 points per game. The ex-Notre Dame All-American, the No. 5 overall pick in April’s draft by the Wings, was also second in the league in field goals attempts with 551, 210 more than Collier. Dallas was out of contention for a playoff spot early and finished 10-24, tied with the New York Liberty for the second-worst record in the league.
In honor of being named the 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Collier will receive $5,000 and a specially designed trophy by Tiffany & Co.
Collier will be in Miami, Florida, this week to take part in a United States senior national team training camp ahead of the 2019 FIBA AmeriCup.