Napheesa Collier needed to make her mark as a rookie for the Minnesota Lynx. With 9 video games left within the common season, she’s achieved simply that, placing herself on the quick checklist of candidates for the WNBA Rookie of the 12 months award.
“It was a purpose of mine coming in,” Collier mentioned of profitable the award. “One thing I needed to try for coming into the league. It is one thing I take into consideration in that sense, however not throughout the sport. I am simply attempting to do no matter I can to assist this group win.”
Collier has made an influence on the courtroom, averaging 11.eight factors, 6.four rebounds and a couple of.four assists. The sixth choose within the draft has achieved that whereas adjusting from the place she’s performed within the execs from that which she excelled in faculty.
“She got here in and needed to transfer from a 4 to a 3 and that is exhausting in itself,” Lynx middle Sylvia Fowles mentioned. “Simply altering her entire id, that is a giant step for her. She rolled up and accepted the challenges. I’ve seen some good rookies, and there are some good rookies on the market this 12 months, however nobody is doing what she’s doing on each ends of the courtroom. By far, she’s the Rookie of the 12 months in my eyes.”
If she does win the award, she’d match Betty Lenox (2000) and Temeka Johnson (2005) because the lowest participant drafted to win it. Rookie of the 12 months often goes to the No. 1 choose within the draft as they’ve received it 9 of the final 11 years.
This 12 months the favorites for Rookie of the 12 months with a month left are Collier, Dallas’ Arike Ogunbowale and Indiana’s Teaira McCowan. All three got here into good conditions. Ogunbowale is main rookies in scoring, averaging 16.1 factors, which is seventh-best within the league. McCowan is seventh in rebounding. Each have been getting loads of minutes.
With 4 of the starters from final 12 months’s group both retired, sitting out or injured, it was straightforward for Collier to step into the Lynx’s beginning lineup. She had 27 factors in her debut — the second-most by a rookie in her first sport. That was essentially the most by a rookie this 12 months, till Ogunbowale scored 35 on Wednesday.
Collier additionally has had 4 video games by which she had at the least 10 factors, 5 assists and 5 rebounds, tying her for fifth in league historical past for a first-year participant. She was the lone rookie to make the All-Star Sport this 12 months.
“Napheesa has impacted the sport in so some ways, and there has not been a rookie who has performed higher than her,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve mentioned.
Whereas her offense has been spectacular, Collier is extra happy along with her effort on the protection.
“I believe it is a massive factor for me. My final couple years in faculty, it was one thing I attempted to place an emphasis on,” she mentioned. “My first 12 months, it is what I acquired in bother for essentially the most. Protection is nice as a result of it will get your offense going.”