Charli Collier joined the University of Texas women’s basketball program as the nation’s top basketball recruit and amid some incredible expectations.
Four years later, the Barbers Hill product has lived up to those expectations and then some in leading the Longhorns to an incredible run during the NCAA Tournament and now being poised to be the likely No.1 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft after declaring early. Along the way, Collier, a 6-foot-5 junior center, has crafted one of the best individual seasons in the history of the Longhorns program.
But it doesn’t mean Collier hasn’t felt the weight of the expectations placed on her before ever stepping foot on campus.
“A lot of prayer, a lot of patience… a whole lot of prayer because it can be pressure at times having that label on you,” said Collier, when describing to The Defender in a telephone conversation what got her through. “But you have to know when it’s your calling you’ve got to just fulfill that calling no matter what it is.”
It’s a stage Collier has been primed for since she was a kid playing basketball in the front driveway with her dad and younger brother, Corey. Both of her parents, Ponda and Elliott Collier, were great athletes and Elliott especially saw greatness in his daughter’s abilities and told her years ago that she would be the No.1 draft pick in the WNBA before he passed away April 4, 2016.
It will be a prophecy fulfilled when Collier is picked No.1 overall by the Dallas Wings in next month’s WNBA Draft.
“Both of my parents have pushed me,” said Collier, whose brother, Corey, is a freshman football player at USC. “Seeing them, especially my mom being a single mother, seeing her work and be the best that she could be for my brother and myself … So just her being a good role model and my dad just being there, making me and my brother’s games. He has meant so much to me and my success on and off the court.”
Collier says it wasn’t hard last month when she made the decision to forgo her senior season and put her name into the WNBA Draft. Her work was complete.
She averaged a double-double for the second year in a row – joining legendary Retha Swindell as the only players in UT history to average double-doubles in consecutive seasons – and is averaging 19.7 points and 11.6 rebounds this season. She was the only Power 5 player in the country to record 17 double-doubles during the regular season.
“It’s really amazing what she has been able to do,” said first-year UT coach Vic Schaefer. “It’s so hard to do at this level against the quality of competition and the quality of coaching that we go against every night.
“I’m really proud of her.”
Collier was named second-team AP-All American at the end of the season and a finalist for the Lisa Leslie Award, which goes to the nation’s top center. She has also led the sixth-seeded Longhorns to an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament, which included an upset win over No.2 Maryland in the Sweet 16 round. Texas lost to No.1 South Carolina during Tuesday night’s Elite Eight round.
So the timing to move on to the WNBA felt right.
“I feel like it had a lot to do with my hard work and trusting my work and where my work has gotten me so far,” Collier said. “When you know your purpose in life, you know why you are here, you make decisions that need to be made. I feel like I’ve had the college experience, I’ve done what I supposed to do here at Texas and it’s just time for the next level for me.
“I really didn’t know the exact date or the day I was going to do it, I just knew over time you get a feeling and you go for it. You take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you.”