Collier working to regain shooting consistency for UConn women's basketball

Published on Wednesday, 9 January 2019 21:18
Written by CARL ADAMEC

JOURNAL INQUIRER

Napheesa Collier’s sophomore jinx isn’t that something all that bad is happening, it’s just the UConn women’s basketball team’s forward was just too good two years ago.

During her All-American season of 2017, Collier shot 67.8 percent from the floor. It’s the only single-season percentage in the top five of Huskies’ history not produced by all-time leader Tamika Williams (1998-2002).

Last year, Collier made 58.3 percent of her shots. Entering Wednesday night’s American Athletic Conference game with Cincinnati), she is third in the AAC at 57.2 percent.

And it’s just not good enough.

“It’s frustrating because when I’m practicing they’re all going in,” Collier said. “Then I get into a game and they’re not. I have to hope they’re going to start dropping and keep shooting.”

While Collier’s overall percentage is solid, she is at just 22.2 percent from 3-point land (4-for-18). And after entering her final year fifth at UConn in free-throw percentage at 82.3, she’s at 64.9 through 13 games (37 for 57. Two years ago, she missed just 25 from the line in 137 attempts.

And, honestly, some have looked ugly.

“I’m thinking about it because I’m trying to make sure that I’m doing everything that I’m supposed to do,” Collier said.

During the last offseason, Collier worked with Alex Bazzell - an NBA/WNBA skills trainer with whom she has trained since her junior year at Incarnate Word Academy in St. Louis - on changing the release of her jump shot.

Collier shot 34.3 percent from 3-point land as a junior when she took as many shots from behind the arc (64) as she did her first two years combined. At 6-foot-1, she knows the 3 must be a part of her game in order to be effective in the WNBA.

“The only thing I tried to change was my 3, just the form of it,” Collier said. “It feels a lot better than it used to though I’m shooting less.”

It’s a strange coincidence, Collier went 2-for-4 from 3-point land in last Thursday’s loss at Baylor that saw her have the poorest shooting night of her career percentage-wise (minimum 10 attempts) at 33.3. She was just 6-for-18 against the Bears as she was limited inside by 6-4 Lauren Cox and 6-7 Kalani Brown.

Collier rebounded in the win over Houston Sunday, going 7-for-10 and finishing with 18 points.

“Think about that ... A kid that made every single shot had to change her shot,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She changed it and so it’s not as good. I hope she’s happy. I talked to her about it the other day. I said, ‘You need to clear your mind of all this stuff.’ She spent a lot of time shooting in practice. It will take some time. She just doesn’t have a lot of confidence in it right now. That will come. Every player goes through it. It will be back to where it was.

“She just hasn’t gotten into any kind of a flow this year. She doesn’t have the same feel she had in the past. How do you fix that? You go into the gym and you shoot a bunch of shots and watch yourself on film. Shooting is a funny thing. When you’re confident you think the basket is as big as a ocean. When you’re not, you don’t think the ball is going in again. Everyone goes through it. For us it’s tough because we don’t have a lot of scorers and we need her. Her perimeter shooting is a huge part of our offense.”

Even with the struggles she has had, the St. Charles, Missouri, resident is still on pace to become the first UConn player since Rebecca Lobo in 1994 to average a double-double.

Collier ranks fourth in the AAC in scoring (18.4), second in rebounding (10.4), ninth in assists (3.6), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7), and fourth in blocked shots (1.1). Her No. 24 will go into the Huskies of Honor at Gampel Pavilion on her Senior Day, March 2.

Ark.-Little Rock on schedule

UConn announced Tuesday that it agreed to a home-and-home series with Arkansas-Little Rock that will set up a homecoming for Little Rock native Christyn Williams in her senior season of 2021-22. UALR will visit UConn in 2020-21 and that will be the first meeting between the schools.



Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Wednesday, 9 January 2019 21:18. Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2019 21:21.