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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

UConn commit Collier talented and driven

Throughout the recruiting process I kept hearing that Napheesa Collier was not only one of the most physically gifted players in the Class of 2015 but also one of the hardest workers.

Yesterday was the first chance I got to see her up close and personal as the U.S. U-18 trials kicked off. Even in room full of talented prospects Collier's tendency to go full speed on every drill was easy to spot.

So when I spoke to her following the practice, that was one of the things I asked her about.

"What's the point of being out there if you are not going to try?" Collier said. "I try to give to give it all at all times."

The first drill I saw Collier resembled an Energizer Bunny during a 3 on 3 set as she seemingly ran to every spot on the court before sprinting to the corner and knocking down a 3-pointer. But perhaps the most impressive moment for her came when she was on the opposite side of the court when a ball bounced past the 3-point line. She bolted across the court and beat to opposing players, both probably 10 feet closer to her, to snare the loose ball.

Collier isn't only about maximum effort, though. She is a tremendously versatile player who can play both inside or out. In fact during her junior season at nationally-ranked Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis, she played both on the wing and in the post.

"In the beginning of the year I played on the perimeter but one of our post players got hurt and I had to move down so I had to play the 3/4 (positions)," Collier said. "It helped me get stronger and I am taller, I will be the tallest player on the team next year so it will help me for next year too."

The 6-foot-1 Collier was the first player from the Class of 2015 to commit to UConn. It happened during an official visit to campus last month.

"When I started touring the facilities and meeting with academic advisors, hearing Coach (Geno Auriemma's) concepts for each player I just knew it was the place for me," Collier said.

"It is like a weight off my shoulder when I was able to commit. I don't have to worry about that stuff, I can focus on improving myself."

De'Janae Boykin and Katie Lou Samuelson were also on the same official visit. Boykin's commitment came next before Samuelson, the top-rated player by the All-Star Girls Report and ESPN HoopGurlz, followed suit giving UConn three pieces in what could become one of the best recruiting classes ever signed by UConn.

"That is awesome," Collier said. "I was so happy when they committed because I loved them when we met and I am looking forward to playing with them.

"Katie Lou, I played against her in 3 on 3 (national tournament in 2013) and I heard of Katie Lou and De'Janae before but I have never met them. We were together the whole time, we watched movies the whole team and we were together the whole time so you kind of have to get to know the people you are with.

"I am so excited, it is going to be an awesome four years. I think we all bring something unique to the team so I think we are going to be playing really well together."

Since the official visit didn't come during the season Collier wasn't able to see the team practice but that did not deter her from knowing UConn's style of play would be perfect for her.

"UConn is really well known anyways so I watched them on TV," Collier said. "It would have been awesome to go to a game but I think I have a feel of how they play, what their style is."

Collier's work will not be done when the U-18 trials wrap up tomorrow as she is on a star-studded team including Boykin, Samuelson and UConn recruiting target Arike Ogunbowale (easily one of my favorite players to watch at the U-17 trials) on a team playing in the U.S. U-18 3x3 national tournament here in Colorado Springs. It should give the three future UConn teammates even more of a chance to get to know each other.

"We met this year but we are not going to be there for a full year so I think keeping in contact is going to be really important so we can go in knowing each other," Collier said. "Katie is literally across the country and I am really far so it will be nice to know somebody when you get there. it is an extra bonus that we get to know each other earlier because we are going to be playing with each other, I am really excited."




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