Incarnate Word Grad & UConn Star Napheesa Collier Named Finalist For National Player of the Year Award
Did you know that a St. Louisan is a finalist for a national Player of the Year award in college basketball this season? Your first guess as to who that player may be would probably be Jayson Tatum. While the Chaminade alumnus had an excellent season at Duke, he was not a finalist.
The correct answer would be Napheesa Collier, a graduate of Incarnate Word Academy here in St. Louis. Collier is one of four finalists for the 2017 James A. Naismith Trophy. The Naismith Trophy is awarded each year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and recognizes the national player of the year.
Collier currently stars for the University of Conneticut women’s basketball team. That’d be Geno Auriemma’s UConn team that hasn’t lost since November 17, 2014.
The Huskies recently won their 110th game in a row by beating UCLA to advance to the Elite Eight in the women’s bracket. They haven’t missed a beat after graduating Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson after last season.
Collier is making the most of her ascension into the spotlight this season for UConn. For the season, the sophomore is second on the team in scoring, averaging 20.4 points per game. She also leads the team in rebounding with 9 per game and averages 2 blocks a game.
She scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against UCLA.
Collier grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri and averaged 18 points a game as a freshman at Jefferson City before her family moved to the St. Louis area. Strangely enough, two-time Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA MVP Maya Moore also grew up in Jefferson City before moving elsewhere. Moore starred at UConn as well, winning two NCAA national championships and twice being named the Naismith Player of the Year.
With Collier leading the way, the Red Knights won three state championships. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch named her the Girls Basketball Player of the Year at the end of each season and she was twice named the Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year.
Collier’s Gatorade awards came at the end of her sophomore and senior seasons. In 2014, Sophie Cunningham took home the award. The pair also shared the 2015 Miss Show-Me Basketball award. Collier and Cunningham came close to playing together for coach Robin Pingeton at Missouri. When Collier committed to UConn in 2014 she listed Missouri as one of her final schools, citing family in the area, the coaches and her relationship with AAU teammates Cierra and Bri Porter as factors in Missouri’s favor.
Fortunately for Geno Auriemma and unfortunately for Missouri basketball fans, UConn’s national championship pedigree lured Collier across the country.
Also in Collier’s recruiting class was Katie Joe Samuelson, who is a finalist for the Naismith award as well. Kelsey Plum of Washington and A’ja Wilson of South Carolina join the Huskie teammates. The winner will be announced on April 1.
Collier and UConn are in action tonight against Oregon with a Final Four berth on the line. The tip is set for 6 pm and can be seen on ESPN.
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