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Thanks to UConn pedigree, Napheesa Collier has acclimated quickly to professional life with Lynx

Shawn McFarland, The Hartford Courant on

Published in Basketball

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve isn't worried about testing Napheesa Collier's limits. If anything, Reeve thinks the rookie may have it easy.

After all, she did spend the past four years being coached by Geno Auriemma at UConn.

"I appreciate that Geno pushed her so hard, because I think I look easy compared to him," Reeve said with a laugh.

That was part of the appeal in taking Collier sixth overall in April's draft. A standout career and senior season -- which saw her average 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in helping the Huskies to their 12th consecutive Final Four berth -- made her nearly impossible to pass on. The pedigree didn't hurt, either.

Now 14 games into her professional career, Collier is averaging 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds -- third and second respectively on the Lynx, who sit fourth in the league at 8-6. Her scoring is second in the league among rookies behind Dallas' Arike Ogunbowale, a Notre Dame alum picked fifth overall. In the most recent All-Star voting returns, Collier had the ninth most votes.

That transition for Collier has appeared reasonably seamless, as she's started from day one for Reeve and Minnesota, and helped fill a void on offense left by Maya Moore, who announced in February she would sit out this season to focus on her personal life. Collier credits her experience at UConn.

 

"The expectation that coach had for us at school is the same as coach Reeve does," Collier said. "Just having that for the past four years, it was an easy transition, expecting the best from myself and my teammates."

With UConn, she lost just five games in four years. With the Lynx, she has already lost six.

"It's hard, because it's not something I'm used to," Collier said of losing. "It's not something I've done in some time. But there's a lot that you can learn from it. You can learn a lot more from a loss than a win. Obviously, you'd rather win. But just seeing that every team is really good, and if you don't bring your A game every single night, you could lose."

Ideally, Minnesota hopes Collier can help set a standard for winning in Minnesota.

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