MINNEAPOLIS -- Everything Napheesa Collier thought she knew got thrown out the window this week when she stepped into her first WNBA training camp.
Collier dominated the paint for most of her college career, but Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had a different vision for the 22-year-old former UConn star after selecting her with the No. 6 overall pick in last month’s draft.
With the absence of Maya Moore, who will take this season off, the 6-foot-2 Collier likely will fill the void left at small forward.
“Just learning how to play and function in that new position is going to be huge,” said Collier, who hasn’t played much on the perimeter in her career. “(I) just need to learn how to make moves and hit (3-pointers) consistently and kind of do work from the outside.”
All the while, the most important thing for Collier is making sure she stays aggressive, one of the primary reasons she succeeded in college.
“Every time I see her play, she does the same thing,” Reeve said, praising her constant activity on the court. “She’s always moving. I don’t know that I would say she looks completely comfortable yet (but) there’s no reason why she should feel that way right now.”
The Lynx play host to Washington in a preseason game Friday, May 10, at Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
It seems unlikely Collier will completely abandon her inside game. That has been her bread and butter for her entire career.
As a senior at UConn, she averaged 20.8 points on an incredibly efficient 61.2 percent shooting pace. She also hauled in 10.8 rebounds a game.
How comfortable does Collier feel transitioning into more of a perimeter player?
“Well, I mean, I’d better get comfortable because that’s where I’m going to be playing,” she said with a laugh. “(I’m) just trying to work through that and learn as fast as I can.”
A big part of that success will be predicated on Collier figuring out how to knock down a 3-pointer with more regularity. She shot 28.3 percent from long range during her last season at UConn and has been working tirelessly with Lynx assistant coach Walt Hopkins in an effort to rebuild her shot.
“The biggest thing is my left hand is kind of in front of the ball, so I’m just trying to get that sucker down,” Collier said. “It’s been holding me back a little bit. It’s definitely going to take some time because changing a shot is really hard. I’m trying to do as much as I can. With the season being so close, though, I don’t want to mess it up too much.”
It’s still unclear how big an impact Collier will make this season, but she’ll certainly have the opportunity as the Lynx transition to an new era of sorts.
Aside from Moore taking the season off, longtime point guard Lindsay Whalen retired after last season, and the status of Rebekkah Brunson still up in the air.
As of Thursday, only Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus remain from the dynasty that ruled the WNBA for much of the past decade with six Finals appearances and four league titles since 2011.
“There are so many new people on the team and I feel like that’s really unusual,” Collier said. “We know that some of the veterans left last season and we don’t have that same team. It’s a new experience for everyone.”
As training camp progresses, Reeve expects Collier to get more comfortable with everything being asked of her.
“This is new,” the coach said. “She’s done something for four years a certain way, and we’d like her to keep a lot of those things that she did. It’s just different terminology, different teammates, different coaches. That whole process takes a little bit of time. She’s not been bashful, by any stretch.”
There no reason to be.
“I feel like I belong,” Collier said. “It’s important to figure out what people like on the court and that’s what we’re learning in these first couple of days. That stuff is new for me, and I’m figuring that out. That said, I’m always going to be confident in myself as a basketball player.”