Charli Collier was practically born with a basketball in her hands. Her mother claims she learned how to shoot at 5, and it sounds like all her hard work is going to finally pay off. Collier is projected to be the Number 1 pick in the WNBA draft.
In her recent victory, Collier led her Texas team in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Monday night. Collier scored 23 of the points in the 81-62 game with 15 rebounds, solidifying her skills on the court. Her team, the Longhorns was sixth seed facing off the eleventh seed team from Bradley University.
The Texas Longhorns also defeated Maryland, the second seed team, 64-61. The upset occurred in the last 44 seconds of the match, with a fast break layup and two free throws earning Texas the win.
According to ESPN, that victory is part of a long journey for Charli, where she continuously demonstrated a tremendous work ethic and pushed herself to dominate on the basketball court. That journey started when the projected number 1 draft pick was only 5.
“I knew basketball, so you weren’t just gonna go shoot the basketball any kind of way,” her mother, Ponda said. She played at Southwestern University and later coached Collier’s first team. “She was learning at 5 how to shoot.”
Charli was surrounded by basketball players, but not all of them were prodigies. Her late father, Elliot, didn’t make his high school team. With hard work and practice, though, he navigated his way onto the court as a starter during his time at Montana State.
At 6-foot-8, Charli’s dad was a force to be reckoned with. She had to learn how to maneuver around his strength and height in order to score points. It was that practice, along with family two-on-two games between Charli’s mother, father, and her younger brother, Casey.
Then, Charli’s dad passed away from lung cancer in 2016, and her dedication to succeed was ignited.
According to The New York Times, Charli earned a spot on the national team. She tried out only a few weeks after her father’s funeral, and the team went on to win bronze at the 2016 world championships. The recruiting letters started pouring in for both Charli and her brother.
Charli Collier admits that seeing her mother’s efforts – driving her and Casey to tryouts, practices, and games – is what pushed her to dig deeper. Charli led her high school team to a 34-5 record and to the Texas Class 5A state semifinals.
Those feats are now being fully recognized. As she approaches a professional career, Charli reflects on the struggles she’s tackled over the past year. “I’m playing in my last tournament for my college career, I’m about to go pro — it’s not a normal situation, not everybody is going through what I’m going through,” she said. “And I think that’s what my dad meant, is that I’m a Collier and I’m going to be held to a higher standard.”
It’s that higher standard that keeps her striving for the top spot. And that spot may finally be achieved. According to CBS Sports, the Dallas Wings own the No. 1 overall draft pick, along with the No. 2 and 5 choices. But things could change like they did last season with Sabrina Ionescu.
Charli will find out tonight, April 15 at 7 p.m. ET during the 2021 WNBA Draft!