Earlier this month, University of Texas center Charli Collier announced that she'll forgo her senior season in order to turn pro and declare for the 2021 WNBA Draft, details for which are still unannounced.
A finalist for the Naismith Award, Collier has led Texas to a 17-8 record and is averaging 20.9 points and 12.2 rebounds, while shooting 51.8 percent from the field. Her decision to leave school early is a big one, as she's one of the best frontcourt prospects in the country, and the potential No. 1 overall pick -- owned by the Dallas Wings.
Ahead of the draft, let's take a closer look at Collier's strengths and weaknesses:
Getting position down low
Collier doesn't step away from the basket on a consistent basis, but she does have a little bit of a face-up game and a pretty smooth looking jumper when she lets it fly. She's shooting 44 percent on all jump shots this season per Synergy Sports, and is at 31.6 percent from 3-point land. Not standout numbers, but there's some potential there if she continues to develop her outside shot at the next level.
At least for now, however, she operates primarily in and around the paint. One reason for her success down low is that she reads the game well, knows how to create space and reliably gets good position in the post.
Here's a great example against Oklahoma. The ball gets swung from the top of the key to the wing, and right when the initial pass is made, Collier ducks in before the defender can react. Then she seals her defender on the high side, catches the pass and gets an easy and-one.
Against Kansas, she showed off that same strength and awareness. As soon as the ball gets moved to the wing, Collier posts up and clears out her defender. The entry pass isn't there, however, so the ball gets swung to the corner. Even still, Collier keeps her defender on her back, and seals her deep under the basket. By the time she catches the ball, she's at the charge circle and has a simple turn and finish.
Draws a lot of fouls/strong free throw shooter
Sticking with the theme of interior dominance, another reason Collier has been one of the best players in the country this season is because she draws fouls at an incredible rate. She gets fouled on just under 20 percent of her offensive possessions, which is second in the NCAA among players with at least 500 possessions, and her seven free throw attempts per game rank 18th among all players.
As we've seen, she's able to get herself into a good position on a regular basis, and once she has defenders sealed around the basket, they often have no choice but to commit a foul. Unfortunately for defenders, that doesn't end up saving them many points because Collier is an 80.5 percent free throw shooter.
Let's take a look at this play against Texas Tech. Just like the clips above, Collier gets terrific position down low, only this time her defender fouls her to prevent an easy basket.
Same story against Lamar. Collier pins her defender on her hip, pivots to keep her on the high side, then pump fakes to get her up in the air and draws the foul.
By now you're aware that Collier is a serious problem down low, so it should come as no surprise that she's also a terrific rebounder. For the season she's averaging 12.2 rebounds per game, which ranks 11th in the country, and somewhat remarkably has grabbed over 35 percent of Texas' total rebounds.
Her ability to clean up on the glass is vital to Texas' success, as she not only makes sure they finish defensive possessions, but gets them extra opportunities on the offensive glass. There's no reason to bore you with rebounding clips, but her prowess isn't just a matter of size and athleticism, as she gets into the right areas on both sides of the floor.
This is one skill that should really translate nicely to the next level.
Struggles against elite competition
Collier is not unskilled by any means, and such a suggestion would be unfair. However, you can't ignore the fact that she is often bigger, stronger and more athletic than her opponents, which certainly makes life easier. Or, at least, it does until she faces opponents who aren't overmatched. Most of Collier's worst games this season came against other elite players and teams:
- 10 points (5 of 20 FG) vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 27
- 2 points (1 of 3 FG) vs. Baylor on Feb. 14
- 12 points (3 of 9 FG) vs. Baylor on March 1
Against Natasha Mack of Oklahoma State, Collier was often forced into awkward and off-balance attempts, even when she was able to get into good position down low. Now, Mack is one of the best defenders in the country, but this is the type of competition Collier will face on a regular basis in the WNBA.
Some of those same issues were evident against Baylor, but we also saw what happens when Collier is forced away from the basket, where she isn't quite as comfortable.
This isn't to say that Collier can't succeed at the next level, but it is somewhat concerning that her production tended to decrease when the competition increased.
Doesn't deal well with double teams
One of the first things to jump out when you are initially scanning Collier's stats is that she only has 12 assists all season. And if you include her entire collegiate career, it's just 33 assists in 86 games.
She's a center so it's not like you'd expect her to be at the top of the leaderboards, but it does make you scratch your head a bit, especially when you notice that she's turned the ball over 73 times -- or 2.9 times per game, which ranks 2,784th in the country.
Regardless of a player's position or responsibilities, it's never good to have a 0.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. And when you look at the tape, it's not hard to tell why that's the case. Collier can get tunnel vision when she has the ball down low, and struggled when teams threw multiple defenders at her. On plays logged as "hard double teams" by Synergy Sports, Collier turned the ball over 25 percent of the time.
Gets in foul trouble
Overall, Collier is a very solid defender. She can have trouble with quicker forwards, but she's not a total liability if she gets switched onto the perimeter, and moves her feet pretty well. Her positional awareness is suspect at times -- both in terms of guarding the post and losing track of the ball in help defense -- but she'll rarely be overpowered, offers solid rim protection and cleans up on the glass.
The main issue on that end is that she has trouble staying on the floor. She averages three fouls per game, which ranks way down in the 7th percentile in NCAA per Her Hoops Stats, and has fouled out of six of the Longhorns' 25 games. Any post player as physical as Collier is going to get their fair share of fouls, and you don't want to totally eliminate her aggressiveness. However, she could easily clean up some of these silly and unnecessary fouls away from the basket.
Collier is a good player with a lot of positive qualities, and she can be productive in the WNBA, especially if she improves her perimeter game. But it's hard to see her coming in and changing a franchise from Day One. That's fine, obviously, not many players do. But the thing is it's often the expectation for prospects at the top of the draft, and certainly the No. 1 overall pick -- which Collier might become.
And so the circumstances surrounding this draft could end up being a blessing and a curse for Collier. In other years she probably wouldn't be getting buzz as a No. 1 pick, but if she goes that high it will come with an increased burden and responsibility.