So much has changed for Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier since she won WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2019.
Team legends Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles retired. Collier got married and became a mom last year. And going into the two-time All-Star's fifth WNBA season, the Lynx are her team.
She is ready to be their leader.
"I feel like (head coach) Cheryl (Reeve) and Seimone, when she was here and then Sylvia, have been kind of preparing me for this," Collier said. "And now it's my turn to kind of show them what I've learned. And I'm going to make mistakes along the way. But I want to make sure that I'm learning from that and I'm doing everything I can in my power to make the team better. And that includes a leadership role."
Reeve has led Minnesota to four WNBA championships in her 13 seasons as Lynx head coach. She knows she’s facing a different kind of challenge this year with building up a group with young players.
Having Collier as a leader will help her with that task.
"She's awfully nice, you know, if you're around Phee," Reeve said. "That's her authentic self. She's never too high, never too low. That's really important and (she is) a leader, very thoughtful, diligent.
"She's planning with me in our meetings. She's the one that came to me and said, 'I want to meet once a week.' And she knows she has to grow. And she wants to make sure she's not missing anything."
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Last month, the Lynx drafted Diamond Miller (second overall pick), Dorka Juhasz (16th), Brea Beal (24th) and Taylor Soule (28th). Juhasz, who, like Collier, played at Connecticut, said Collier has been the rookies' go-to veteran to answer their many different questions.
"She was so welcoming," Juhasz said. "Whatever I needed she said, you know, just go to her, but also, talking about basketball more specifically like, 'Hey, how do you want to do this?' Because she knows how different some things are at UConn, so she was able to help me adjust to those or learn different defensive schemes.
"It's definitely awesome to have her, you know, as kind of a mentor, a leader."
In turn, Collier is impressed with how this crop of new talent is eager to learn.
"I will credit them because they're great with asking questions if they ever are confused by anything or they want to get the lay of the land," Collier said. "Obviously, I try to give them a rundown before we start, but they're great with asking questions right away and not letting that kind of stew.
"I like giving them a heads-up about how Cheryl is as a coach, what she expects, before we start practice, things like that. Just how things run in our team anywhere that I can, that I know was helpful for me when I was a rookie. I try to be insightful for them."
In 2022, Minnesota went 14-22 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2010, Reeve's first year as a coach. Collier missed most of the season on maternity leave, and injuries hit the team hard.
In preseason, the Lynx went 1-1, beating the Washington Mystics and losing to the Chicago Sky in Toronto in front of a raucous crowd. The key thing for Minnesota is coming together as a group, and Collier believes the team has made progress toward that.
“The chemistry that we've been able to build I think is really special," she said. "I don't think people have a lot of (expectations) for us. They don't know what we're going to be about. So I think it's gonna be fun to come out here and kind of punch people in the mouths."