Jefferson City, Missouri
Napheesa Collier’s got leadership in her genes. Her grandfather Gershon was an ambassador who helped Sierra Leone gain independence from Great Britain back in 1961. There’s even a photo of him with President John F. Kennedy in the Collier household.
So it should come as no surprise that Napheesa is a leader on the court.
The 6-1 guard did it all for Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis last season, leading the Red Knights to a second straight Missouri Class-4 state championship while averaging a ridiculous 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 3.6 steals and 2.1 assists per game.
She never met her grandfather, who passed away in 1994 after suffering a stroke. But she does understand her history.
“My dad tells us stories all the time,” she said. The family also goes to parties in Jefferson City, where about 100 fellow Sierra Leoneans gather to socialize, dance, and talk about their heritage.
“It’s great to be a part of that,” Collier said.
The 18-year old also loves to read, plans to major in psychology, and lists “12 Years A Slave,” and “The Help” as her favorite movies. Oh, and last year, she pulled down a 4.0 GPA.
Geno Auriemma often talks about recruiting players who will be able to handle the pressures of UConn. He wants “guys,” as he amusingly calls them, who can be offensive stars, but aren’t afraid of floorburns or complex instruction.
“I’ve heard him say that to me before,” Collier said. “I think he saw some of that in me.”
So how does Napheesa describe her game?
“I would say that I’m long and I like to drive,” she said. “I’m not really outside as much.”
The 6-1 wing said she doesn’t pattern herself after anyone, though she does say that Kevin Durant is her favorite player.
“I don’t really compare myself to anyone. I kind of just go out and play.”
If she did want to pattern herself after someone, fellow Jefferson City native and UConn great Maya Moore wouldn’t be a bad role model. Napheesa said she’s had the chance to meet the WNBA star and hear her speak in front of her team.
Collier’s going to have the chance to play alongside another generation of great Huskies, including incoming freshman Katie Lou Samuelson, who is the No. 1 ranked recruit in the nation. The two were teammates on a U.S. national team that captured the 2014 FIBA Americas championship.
But beyond balling with fellow All-Americans and chasing national championships, maybe the main reason Geno nabbed Napheesa was…chocolate cake?
Collier said he served up a big one at his restaurant while she was on her recruiting trip.
“That’s what got me,” she said. “It was huge. Really, really good.”
Here’s a nice video of Collier pulling a mini-Reggie Miller: