Another milestone the Tokyo Olympics will be representing is the inaugural three-on-three basketball tournament.
Napheesa Collier was one of a team of four U.S. women’s players who were days away from departing to Bengaluru, India, for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, before the event was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus.
Soon the Olympics would be postponed one year, leaving Collier, like much of the world, waiting patiently for her next step.
“By the time it was postponed, I wasn’t surprised,” Collier told High Post Hoops. “I was expecting it at that point. It’s obviously disappointing because it comes once every four years, and this was, hopefully, going to be my first Olympics. This was the best for everyone, and I am glad it’s postponed and not cancelled.”
Collier, who was the WNBA Rookie of the Year last season with the Minnesota Lynx, was scheduled to join Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray and Kelsey Plum at the event in India. The U.S. was to be one of 20 teams vying for a spot in the eight-team Olympic field, of which four teams (China, Russia, Mongolia, and Romania) have already qualified, due to their rankings.
“It’s really fun to watch because the shot clock is only 12 seconds,” Collier said. “It’s great for the fans since every 12 seconds, a shot is being put up, and it’s fun for the players because of the high intensity.”
In the meantime, Collier has stayed in her hometown of St. Charles, Mo., with her fiancé Alex, where the couple is planning a November 13 wedding. In addition to playing games and taking up playing the keyboards, Collier has been working out at a church gym.
“We were going a couple of times a day, then every other day,” she said. “The more practice you have, the more you are improving. You take advantage of the extra time.”
Collier began her USA Basketball experience winning the 2014 FIBA Americas Under-18 title in Colorado Springs. She then won the gold medal in three-on-three at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, teamed with Arike Ogunbowale, Katie Lou Samuelson and De’Janae Boykin.
At the 2015 Under-19 World Cup in Chekhov, Russia, Collier scored 12.7 points and grabbed 9.3 rebounds in being named to the all-tournament team for the champion Americans. This past fall, she was part of a senior group that won the FIBA AmeriCup in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“Those were the first championship teams I played on,” Collier said. “Playing for the USA is so different than being on a high school or AAU team. We got used to the pressure situations. Even though it wasn’t the senior national team, we still had a target on our backs.”
The Under-19 World Cup team included Crystal Dangerfield, who Collier also played with at UConn. They will be reunited again this season, after the Lynx selected Dangerfield in the WNBA Draft.
“I’m really excited,” Collier added. “I enjoyed playing with Crystal in college. I knew her game because I’ve been playing with her for three years, and I am excited to get back on the court again.”
It’s unclear when that return to action will be, but make no mistake about it, the players will be prepared and ready.
“Everyone is just itching to get back out on the court,” Collier said. “It’s our life and what we do for a living. Any way it happens, we want to get out there one way or another.”
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