‘My time will come’: Charli Collier on all-star goals, adjusting to WNBA

Dallas Wings center Charli Collier stretches for a defensive rebound during a WNBA basketball game against the Seattle Storm on June 4, 2021. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

“There is more to Charli than a lot of people see, and you will all see that soon.”

Charli Collier says she is her biggest critic. The Dallas Wings chose her first overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft after her three standout seasons at Texas, and the forward-centre has been surrounded by hype since she was first offered a college scholarship — when she was in Grade 8.

Now the 22-year-old is midway through her rookie season in the WNBA, and admits it hasn’t been the breakout (yet) that she had hoped for. To date, she is averaging 3.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.

Just a few days removed from the WNBA 2021 All-Star Game roster announcement, we caught up with Collier to talk about her own all-star goals, playing against idols, and the growing pains of going from college ball to the “W.”

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

You are halfway through your rookie year in the WNBA. With any player making the jump from playing in college to the pros, there are some growing pains. What were some of the challenges you faced earlier on, and how do you feel your game has grown?

For sure growing pains. For any growth process, you go through growing pains to get to that light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I am making some small steps and making some adjustments here and there, and coming from college to the pros — it is a completely different game, from the physical speed of the game to just the approach of the game. You are playing defence every night.

I just have to get adjusted and can’t really get too down on myself, and I have to realize it is my first season here and I want to learn as much as I can but I am also a competitor so I do get mad sometimes when things don’t go my way but it is a stepping stone and I’m just looking forward to the best I can be here in the league.

The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game roster was just announced. What are your thoughts on the roster? What were your expectations for yourself when it came to the game this year?

I wasn’t expecting it. I’m such a competitor and I am hard on myself — sometimes when I shouldn’t be. My time is coming when I will be an all-star, but this season not so much. I am just being honest with myself.

But there will be that time where I will be an all-star and I will be on the national team and things like that because that is what I want to get to. I am a competitor, and this is my first year, and there is so much more to come. There is more to Charli than a lot of people see, and you will all see that soon.

I remember seeing a Sports Illustrated for Kids feature on you where you said you were a fan of Candace Parker and even had her jersey. You recently played some minutes against her when the Dallas Wings took on the Chicago Sky. What was that moment like for you?

Just seeing her on the other side of the court when we were warming up it was like, “I had her jersey growing up. I remember watching her games on the TV, and it’s just crazy.” That is what the league is about, though — you play people that you look up to, and now you are playing against them. I’m learning still, and the ‘W’ teaches you so much.

We have to talk about a photo you posted that spread like wildfire on social media involving another great in the game — Brittney Griner.

[Laughs] I was probably like 12 or 13 in that picture. I ran into her at a mall in Houston, and I remember taking that picture because my mom was like, “Oh my god — that is Brittney Griner! You have got to take your picture with her.” I posted it and Brittney actually saw it and reposted it. It is just crazy how we have grown — even she looked different in the picture. I look so much different in the picture. But it was just like a pinch-me moment when you are actually now playing against her, and the other day your mom was wanting you to take a picture with her at the mall.

After your season with Dallas wraps you will be heading to Italy to play for Beretta Famila Schio. Did you speak with any of your teammates about where you would be playing in the off-season or for advice because that league is also a different pace?

I am really excited to play for Famila Schio. I have only been to Italy one time, and that was when I was in high school. But now I am going to be there for eight months. I have to learn the language, but it’s a good thing my coach speaks English. My teammate [Awak Kuier] actually plays in the same league so we will be playing against each other in Italy, so that is kind of cool.

This may be a stretch but you said before how your dream event to attend is the Grammy Awards, and there is this video of you rapping. Could we potentially see you releasing some music in the future?

I am not going to lie to you — I cannot sing. I try to rap sometimes just for fun, but I can’t rap. [Laughs] There is a video of me out there where I am rapping in the NCAA, and I might remake that song — that’s something fun I would like to do.

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