Texas Longhorns junior Charli Collier announced she will "fulfill my lifelong dream" and declare for the 2021 WNBA draft.
"I feel like it's just time for me to fulfill the next step in my life. It's God's plan and I'm ready," Collier told ESPN's Holly Rowe.
The center/forward is eligible to declare because she turns 22 in the calendar year. She is averaging 20.9 points and 12.2 rebounds this season for the Longhorns (17-8, 11-7), who enter the Big 12 tournament as the No. 5 seed. They'll play No. 4 Iowa State in the quarterfinals on Friday.
She leaves Texas with a career-high besting fellow Texas great Kevin Durant and the words of her father, who died when she was 16.
Collier leaves Texas career-high better than Kevin Durant
Collier, at 6-foot-5, is 22nd in the Division I in points per game and ninth in rebounds per game as of Monday morning. Her career-high 44 points against North Texas this season is the fourth-most in Texas women's program history and seven more than Kevin Durant's highest-scoring game in a Longhorn uniform. Collier wears the No. 35 as an ode to him, her favorite player.
She has 17 double-doubles, second-most in Division I, and has reached double-figure scoring in all but two games.
Collier, who has improved defensively in her junior campaign, is shooting 51.8 percent from the field, 80.5 percent from the free throw line and even 31.6 percent (12-for-38) from 3-point range. She's hit 45 in her collegiate career.
If drafted No. 1, she would be the first WNBA pick from Texas to go at the top and the second from the Big 12 conference. Baylor center Brittney Griner was drafted No. 1 by the Phoenix Mercury in 2013.
Carrying on father's legacy at No. 1 everything
In announcing her decision, Collier thanked her family for their support. Her mother, Ponda, was one of her first coaches and her younger brother, Casey, is "the best brother I could ever have."
She also thanked her late father, Elliott, who died in April 2016 at the age of 53 after a battle with lung and liver cancer. Charli was 16 and weeks prior had been able to celebrate an invitation to Team USA camp with her father.
Now the formerly ranked No. 1 recruit could again live out what her father always used to remind her.
"He used to always tell me I'd be No. 1," Collier told ESPN's Rowe. "I didn't know what that would be in, but just No. 1 in everything. I took it like that. No. 1 in school, athletics, in anything. And so I just carry that on every day that I have to be No. 1 in whatever that may be in. I just want to continue to work hard and be the best I can be."
Elliott passed on his love of basketball to her, she told ESPN in 2016, and showed her no mercy when they played each other. At 6-foot-8 he would consistently block her shot, telling her "nobody can stop you but yourself." She has leaned on those words in her collegiate career.
Elliott was a walk-on at Montana State and eventually became a starter. He later played professionally in Honduras.
Collier is graduating this spring from Texas with a degree in physical culture and sports, and a minor in communications.
Wings could keep Collier home at No. 1
A flurry of trades last month sent the No. 1 pick held by the New York Liberty to the Dallas Wings. The Wings have four first-round picks (Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7) to continue building around MVP contender Arike Ogunbowale and a young squadron from last year's draft.
It would keep Collier home and close to her mother and brother. The family is from Mount Belvieu, Texas, about 35 miles east of Houston. The Wings are the closest franchise at about a four-hour drive. Collier told Rowe it would "be a blessing" to be taken by Dallas, but she's grateful to be drafted by any team.
The Wings barely missed the playoffs and could use a center to better free up Ogunbowale and 2020 draftee Tyasha Harris in the back court. The team recently waived veteran center Astou Ndour and need an improved rebounding game to compete with the league's best teams. They are a few pieces and experience levels away from title contention under first-year head coach Vickie Johnson.
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