Napheesa Collier poses with her gold medal following the women's basketball final medal ceremony at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 8, 2021 in Saitama, Japan.
TORONTO – This is new territory for Napheesa Collier.
After making her Olympic debut with the U.S. women’s basketball team in 2021, the multi-faceted big is now coming off a year in which she gave birth to her first child and became the de facto leader of the Minnesota Lynx following Sylvia Fowles’ retirement. Now officially the Lynx’s new captain, she’s ready to take on the challenges that are in front of her both as a basketball player and a new mom.
“It’s been crazy. The year has gone by so fast,” Collier said last week, ahead of the Lynx’s preseason game against the Chicago Sky on Saturday, which marked the WNBA’s first visit to Canada. The game also preceded her first Mother’s Day after giving birth to daughter Mila last May.
“Just finding that new normal and that work-life balance has been so fun,” Collier continued. “Every time I come home and see (Mila’s) smile, it is all worth it. It kind of makes you hone in on what you need to do because I don't have unlimited hours in the day anymore. When I’m in the gym, I focus on that but when I’m at home I focus on her.”
A part of that balance is prioritizing long-term goals with the ones right in front of her. Collier already looks like the player she was before she had Mila and is continuing to sharpen her already stellar skillset. The biggest difference so far? Her three-point shot.
Coming out of the University of Connecticut, Collier didn’t have a reputation as a player who could step out from beyond the arc and nail three-pointers, but she’s shown flashes of being a reliable shooter at the next level. In her first two seasons with the Lynx, she shot 37.9 percent from deep on 2.4 attempts per game. The two-time WNBA All-Star didn’t bring the same shooting efficiency in 2021 and sat out most of 2022 after giving birth to Mila.
However, Cheryl Reeve, Collier’s head coach on both the Lynx and the U.S. team, gave a glowing review of Collier’s growth as a three-point shooter since the two have been in camp.
“She was capable (of hitting three-point shots), but now she is a shooter,” Reeve said. “It’s a big evolution that will open up things for her. She’s obviously very efficient in the paint in a variety of ways, but adding the three … that’s pretty good.”