She's No. 1: Texas star Charli Collier taken first by Dallas in WNBA draft
Raised in the Houston area and educated in Austin, Charli Collier is moving to Dallas for her first job.
Collier was selected by the Dallas Wings with the first pick of the WNBA draft on Thursday evening. A 6-5 forward, Collier spent the past three seasons at Texas.
Before Thursday, no Longhorn had ever been taken with the first pick of the NBA or WNBA's drafts. LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant were back-to-back second selections in 2006 and 2007. The WNBA's third pick in 2000, Edwina Brown was the first collegiate talent chosen that year.
"It was just amazing to know that your hard work pays off no matter what you do," Collier told reporters after her selection. "I feel like the best is still yet to come."
A draft-eligible junior, Collier announced in March that she would not return to Texas for her senior season. Collier had long been the expected target for Dallas, which had acquired the top pick in a trade with New York. Still Collier admitted that she "started to get the butterflies" as WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert recited her name on Thursday night.
This past winter, Collier averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game for a Texas team that reached the Elite Eight. Collier became the first Longhorn to earn AP All-American honors since 2007. Her 19 double-double performances ranked second nationally. She also knocked down 43 3-pointers over her sophomore and junior seasons.
During a 106-69 rout of North Texas in November, Collier grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 44 points on 14-of-17 shooting. That was the fourth-highest scoring total in school history. A 23-point, 20-rebound effort against TCU on Jan. 20 gave the Longhorns their first 20-20 game since 2012.
"She's one of the best players in the country," Texas coach Vic Schaefer said in January. "I'm not trading her for anybody. I want her. If I've got the first pick of everybody in the (Big 12), I'm taking her."
Often confronted with two or three defenders, Collier also had some noteworthy struggles this season. In three games against Baylor, she totaled 17 points and 15 rebounds. In the NCAA Tournament, Collier scored 39 points against Bradley and Maryland but was held to nine points by UCLA and South Carolina.
"There's a lot to like about her game," ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said. "You do have questions when you see some of the struggles that she may have had against certain opponents, but you also understand kind of the bigger picture of what she was playing with, the system she was playing in and all of those things."
Dallas owned three of the draft's first five picks. With the second pick, the Wings selected Finland center Awak Kuier. Chelsea Dungee, a guard from Arkansas, went fifth. Dallas used its second-round pick on Louisville phenom Dana Evans.
Those rookies will soon join a Dallas team that went 8-14 last season. The Wings missed the postseason, but guard Arike Ogunbowale did lead the league in scoring. Dallas will open its 2021 campaign on May 14 at the Los Angeles Sparks.
"Just to have elite talent like that on the Dallas squad, it just makes it so much more fun," Collier said. "I'm looking (forward to) building a good relationship with all the players and all the coaches and just getting ready to get to work."