As she prepared for her final regular season home game a week ago, Napheesa Collier was asked how she’d like UConn women’s basketball fans to remember her.
“I hope they remember me as someone who did all she could for her team and left everything on the court every single time,” Collier said.
The fans and history will remember the senior forward another way.
The senior forward became the seventh UConn star to be a two-time league Player of the Year as she was named by the American Athletic Conference as its top performer in a vote by coaches, the league announced this morning.
Collier also became the second Husky to be selected the league’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, joining Nykesha Sales (1998).
Guard Christyn Williams was voted the Freshman of the Year, while Geno Auriemma was the Coach of the Year.
UConn (28-2 overall, 16-0 AAC), which won its sixth straight league regular season title, opens tournament play Saturday at 2 p.m. against either East Carolina or SMU in quarterfinal action at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Collier, who shared the 2017 Player of the Year honor with teammate and classmate Katie Lou Samuelson, leads the AAC in scoring (20.2), field-goal percentage (60.7), and rebounding (10.2) while ranking third in blocked shots (1.4), eighth in assists (3.6), and 12th in steals (1.4).
She became the fifth member of UConn’s 2,000 points/1,000 rebounds club and is fifth in points (2,214) and fifth in rebounds (1,114) on the Huskies’ all-time lists. She is also seventh in blocked shots (231). She was inducted into the Huskies of Honor program on Senior Day last Saturday.
The St. Charles, Missouri, resident noted that she had a different role for the Huskies than she did a year ago.
“It was different for a couple of reasons,” Collier said. “Number one, being that I’m a senior, Lou and my main job was to be the vocal people on the team because we have the most experience. We’ve been here the longest, and we know what we’re doing. Also everyone looks at you as the top rung of the ladder now because you are the oldest. So just being able to do everything perfectly in practice is important so other people have someone to look up to.
“I’m pretty confident in what I can do, especially in practice because I think I’m really consistent. So I enjoy helping the other guys, especially Olivia (Nelson-Ododa), because she is in my group as one of the post players. I like helping her, because I know what it’s like to be a freshman and have to navigate those waters.”
Collier joins Samuelson (2017-18), Diana Taurasi (2003-04), and Rebecca Lobo (1994-95) as two-time Player of the Year winners while Breanna Stewart (2014-16), Maya Moore (2008-09, 2011), and Kerry Bascom (1989-91) were so honored three times.
Samuelson joined Collier on the AAC first team for the third time and the seniors were unanimous selections. Junior point guard Crystal Dangerfield also made the first team.
The Huntington Beach, California, native is averaging 18.9 points, third in the league, a career-best 6.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.4. She, too, was inducted into the Huskies of Honor program on Senior Day last Saturday and is fourth on UConn’s scoring all-time list with 2,259 and second in 3-pointers made (368).
Dangerfield is averaging 13.7 points and leads the AAC in assists (6.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.3). She is also sixth in steals at 1.6.
Sophomore Megan Walker, who is averaging 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds, was a third-team selection.
Williams is the first UConn player to win the AAC freshman honor since Kia Nurse in 2015. The Little Rock, Arkansas, native is averaging 10.6 points and 3.1 rebounds. She had her best game of the season when she scored 28 points in the Huskies’ win at Notre Dame on Dec. 2.
Auriemma picked up the AAC Coach of the Year award for the fifth time in six years. He was the Big East Coach of the Year 10 times. In his 34th season, the 2006 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductee holds a record of 1,055-138 and his .884 winning percentage is No. 1 all time.