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Napheesa Collier's WNBA Draft Experience

On Wednesday night, Napheesa Collier floats down the Orange carpet of the 2019 WNBA Draft. She smiles for the cameras and answers questions with the same grace she had throughout her entire college career at Connecticut. Dressed to the nines, she looks the part of “Queen Phee” nickname the adoring UConn fanbase has adopted for her over the last few months.

One one hand, Wednesday night’s event comes with the territory. As a senior and one of the best collegiate players in the country, Collier’s week starts in Tampa at the Final Four, includes a stop at the New York Nike Headquarters for the WNBA Draft. And then Thursday, she boards a plane for Los Angeles as a Wooden Award finalist.

It’s the type of week her mother, Sarah Collier, and Collier herself both described as a “whirlwind”.

But on the other hand, Wednesday's draft is the culmination of a remarkable college career and something Collier has been working for her entire life.

“She just feels very blessed to be here,” says Collier’s mom while waiting to hear where her daughter would end up next year. “She’s had a fantastic career at UConn, and could not have asked for a better college experience at UConn. But now that that’s over they’re really looking forward to this next chapter.”

That fantastic college career is one that will live in the UConn record books for a long time. With over 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, Collier is part of an elite group of Connecticut greats. One of whom, she will soon find out, she may have a chance to play with in the near future.

When the draft starts, Collier sits down at a table with her family and waits for her name to be called. Directly in front of her is her teammate and best friend, Katie Lou Samuelson, along with her UConn coaches. It’s Samuelson who is called first, heading to Chicago with the fourth pick, and Collier excitedly watches her best friend live out her dreams.

And then it’s her turn — “with the sixth pick in the 2019 WNBA draft the Minnesota Lynx select Napheesa Collier.” She hugs her family and heads to the stage to pose with the new jersey she’ll be donning. She makes her way to talk to Holly Rowe — they discuss her versatility, her hard work, and her transition at UConn to a defensive powerhouse and a “ready made” player who will come in an make an impact off the bat in the league. Collier then makes her way to the media.

In front of a WNBA backdrop, surrounded by a dozen reporters, she reflects back on the moment she heard her name called: “I was really excited. I’m so excited to play with this team. I love the coaching staff and the players.”

As a part of USA Basketball last summer, Collier has already had the opportunity to play under her new head coach Cheryl Reeve briefly. As for the players, former UConn great Maya Moore will not play for the Lynx this season, but Collier was equally ecstatic about the opportunity to play with her in the future.

“It’s going to be amazing,” said Collier. ”That’s been my dream ever since I started watching her when I was little. That she’s on that team and a part of that team means a lot.”

Some dreams fulfilled, Collier has also sets her sight on new dreams. As the final obligation before rejoining her friends and family, she heads to a banner representing the new WNBA branding released earlier this week where each draftee is adding their dreams. Collier takes the pen and adds her new dream — to win a WNBA championship.

As the draft comes to a close, Collier rejoins the Samuelsons. They plan to celebrate the same way they have everything in their UConn careers — together. It’s an exciting night for all involved — for Collier and her family, and of course, for the UConn coaching staff, who have watched her and her game grow and evolve over the past four years.

“It’s exciting anytime you have players that have the opportunity to be drafted in the first round. It’s exciting for them. They’ve put a lot of work into it over the years,” said associate head coach Chris Dailey before departing to continue the night’s celebrations. “And now the real work starts.”