21-year-old Napheesa “Pheese” Collier has been called “the next best thing for UCONN women’s basketball” and with good reason. A native of O’Fallon, Missouri, just outside Jefferson City, Collier has also been called the Huskies’ most unassuming superstar. The 6’1″ forward is a junior at the University of Connecticut after transferring in from the Immaculate Word Academy in 2015.
Collier’s accomplishments since joining the Huskies include being selected as a member of the 2016 American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team, the 2017 NCAA Bridgeport Regional Most Outstanding Performer, a First Team All-American by the AP, WBCA and USBWA in 2017, a member of the 2017 American Conference First Team and the 2017 American Conference Co-Player of the Year.
Collier is also known for her stellar academic record, unwavering commitment to the team and political family history. Her grandfather, Gershon Collier, served as Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador, leaving Collier with some very large shoes to fill.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. In The 2016-2017 Season, Collier Started in All 37 Games, Was Ranked 4th Nationally in Field Goal Percentage at 67.8%, Blocked 77 Shots & Achieved The 6th Highest Single Scoring Average in UCONN History
Collier’s record is so incredible that it speaks for itself in terms of her invaluable skills and contributions to the Huskies, making her one of the all-star team’s standout performers and strongest assets.
Among Coller’s accomplishments are her selection to the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship All-Tournament Team. During the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, 2014 Youth Olympic Games and 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, Collier earned the gold medal. Collier earned a record shattering score of 28-0 playing in USA Basketball games.
In 2015, Collier was selected to be a member of the USA Basketball U19 World Championship team that captured the gold medal with a perfect 7-0 record at 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship in Chekhov, Russia, where she led the team to a 3-0 exhibition record against Australia, Canada and Spain in a pre-U19 warm-up tournament. More information on Collier’s achievements is available on usab.com.
2. Collier is So Consistent With Her Skills, Performance & Level-Headedness That She Has Been Called a “Robot” By Her Coaches
Collier is so focused on constantly improving her skill-set that she’s been called a “robot” in the most positive sense of the word. Collier learns so quickly, regularly adding new strategies to her on court approach that she seems almost inhuman. Collier is so successful, precise and aggressive on the court that to call her impressive would be a gross understatement. Collier is such a versatile, unique player that she is a regular standout on an all-star team. Coller has proven herself time and time again among the ranks of Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Azura Stevens and Katie Lou Samuelson.
3. Collier Admits to Struggling During Her First Year of College, Stating that Freshman Year is “Terrible For Anyone” After a Performance By The Huskies That Head Coach Geno Auriemma Described as Disgraceful
Collier has spoken openly about her struggles as a player. She was among the Huskies to be chided by Coach Geno Auriemma following a performance that he described as “disgraceful.” The harsh words from Auriemma following a disappointing performance by the Huskies would prove to be a powerful motivator for Collier in terms of picking herself up, dusting herself off and doing a better job on the court, striving to make Coach Auriemma and the UCONN women proud.
Collier also addressed her freshman year, describing it as terrible, and explaining that “freshman year is terrible for anyone.”
“Freshman year is, I think, terrible for anyone,” said Collier, who led the early dominant charge by UConn starters in the first quarter before little-used reserves entered for the second. “It’s really hard being a freshman at any program, let alone Connecticut, where you have all these things that come with it. … I do relate to [the freshmen]. But you’ve got to push through it. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something you really have to do. Otherwise, you’re not going to grow. You’re going to stay locked in the cycle of not being confident and not playing the way we want to play. That’s where freshmen seem to be right now — stuck in a cycle, spinning around and thumping, like sneakers in a dryer. Just when Auriemma thought his rotation had taken a step forward with the emergence of guard Megan Walker, who put together strong consecutive performances against Memphis and East Carolina and seemed destined to solidify the seventh spot, the players occupying space behind the top six have regressed,”
Collier’s optimism and motivation to push herself harder as a player served as a morale booster for the rest of the team. She is largely credited with helping the Huskies to regain their focus and perform to the best of their ability at each game.
4. Collier’s Grandfather, Gershon Collier, Was Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the UN & Also Served as the Country’s Chief Justice
Collier hails from a family with a rich political history. Her paternal grandfather, the late Gershon Collier, was a lawyer in Sierra Leone who would eventually serve as the country’s chief justice and ambassador to the UN. Collier has been able to make multiple trips to Sierra Leone, the country holding much importance to her. To say that Collier’s family holds an accomplished history would be a vast understatement.
Collier has described her late grandfather’s memory as one of the driving forces in her life. He inspired her to serve others and work hard for the greater good. His legacy also left Collier with a deep appreciation for the importance of hard work. Included among Gershon Collier’s many accomplishments was his work to negotiate Sierra Leone’s independence from Britain in 1961.
In what is possibly the most iconic photo of him taken during his political career, Gershon Collier is pictured meeting with President John F. Kennedy meeting at the White House on November 20, 1963. Mere days later, Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas. According to Collier’s father, Mr. Collier was the last ambassador that Kennedy would sit down with prior to his death.
Additionally, Collier hails from an athletic family. Collier’s “father played rugby at Buckingham University in England; uncle Roland Morrow competed in both baseball and basketball at Hannibal LaGrange College (Mo.) and baseball at Central Missouri University; cousins Dwain Polly, Cody Morrow and Derek Morrow played baseball in college; cousins Judy Busch and Vonda Luethen played basketball in college; while cousin Brandon Morrow competed in golf as a collegian,” reports usab.com.
5. Collier is Known for Her Selflessness & Giving Nature, Commitment to the Team & Flawless 4.0 GPA
Perhaps as a result of her grandfather, Gershon Collier’s influence as described above, Collier is known for her selfless character and loyal, giving personality. Her first name, Napheesa, loosely translates to “precious one,” an appropriate name for Collier.
In addition to her stellar record as a member of the UCONN Huskies, Collier is an academic scholar, successfully maintaining a flawless 4.0 GPA. Currently, Collier is pursuing a degree in human development and family studies.
When asked to describe Collier as a player, Coach Geno Auriemma commented that “[Collier] has raised the bar so high, if she misses a shot, I’m flabbergasted,” reports The New York Times.