The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)

Collier enjoying U.S. team training camp

- By Jim Fuller

While her classmates have had their noses to textbooks, UConn women’s basketball star Napheesa Collier has been on the other side of the country dealing with a different sort of education.

As the only active college player at the U.S. women’s national team training camp in Seattle, Collier has found herself squaring off with taller and most experience­d foes.

There have been matchups with former UConn teammates Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck and the challenge of guarding Olympic gold medalists Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne in the two days of practice before Thursday’s internatio­nal friendly against China at Seattle’s Key Arena.

“It’s cool playing with the older girls, it’s so much different,” Collier said shortly after Wednesday’s practice at Seattle Pacific University. “It’s really cool to play with them and learn from them.”

So what is she learning from the post players who have enjoyed success in the WNBA, overseas and with the U.S. national team?

“Just how smart that they play and how under control they are,” Collier said. “I think a lot of times on any college team, we get really sped up.

“They’re all super welcoming. I was just talking to Elena Delle Donne, asked her some questions, and the UConn girls just trying to learn as much as I can from

them. They’ve all been super nice and welcoming toward all the younger kids.”

Overseas commitment­s and injury issues have kept some of the players in the national team pool away, but with the 6-foot-6 Fowles, 6-5 Delle Donne and Stefanie Dolson and 6-4 Stewart, it’s been daunting at times for Collier on both ends of the court.

“It’s definitely a challenge because I’m the smallest post player here, but just trying to get around them because I won’t be able to push them out of the way like some of the post players (in college),” Collier said.

In the last couple of seasons, Gabby Williams would usually draw the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s top post player. Azurá Stevens was able to help out in that department during the 2017-18 season but with both of them preparing for their profession­al debuts, this is a good dress rehearsal for Collier to deal with players who are 3, 4 or 5 inches taller than her.

“I’ve been doing it the last two years now so it’s probably not going to be a lot different, other than not having Gabby or Z (Stevens) on the back side, but more experience and more practice with that is always a good thing,” Collier said.

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