Washington freshman center Katie Collier, who will miss the entire women's basketball season because of a knee injury, is watching and waiting, dreaming of her debut in a Huskies uniform next season.
Editor’s note: Jayda Evans will follow the progress of UW freshman basketball player Katie Collier this season in an occasional series as the high-school All-American rehabs her injured knee and watches the Huskies from the sideline.
Now the dreams have started.
Katie Collier is dressed in her purple uniform. Her name is called. She’s instantly on the court, muscling in putbacks and blocking shots for the Washington women’s basketball team.
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“I’ll wake up all happy,” she said last week.
However, in a blink, reality appears.
“Then I’m sad I still can’t play,” she said.
Collier, already celebrating her first year as a cancer survivor, is missing her freshman season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in her right knee. Collier, a 6-foot-3 center, is expected to be healthy for the 2013-14 season.
“I’d say watching is getting harder,” said Collier, who suffered the injury in July. “My knee feels great. As it feels better, I want to be out there more. Now that I’m starting to do jump shots and shooting around, I just feel like, ‘OK, put me in coach!’ But I know that’s not possible.”
While not being able to play is bad enough, watching her teammates play tests her patience more.
Washington (16-5, 8-2 Pac-12) departed last Thursday for a two-game trip through the desert, defeating Arizona and Arizona State to extend its win streak to six games. Collier was in Seattle tinkering with her computer to watch the Huskies’ 74-65 win against Arizona online.
Surprisingly for a 18-year-old, she can barely launch Microsoft Word to complete class work. Watching a game online? She had to call her mother for help. Thankfully, UW’s 74-61 victory over ASU on Sunday was on television.
“Me and computers just clash,” said Collier, who also missed UW’s win at Wisconsin in November. “I feel like an old lady trying to deal with computers.’
“Sitting on the computer watching (the Wisconsin win), it wasn’t even a full video. They just had updates and … it was interesting. I’ve never done that before. It’s a late (feed), there’s a pause before the next play. It’s frustrating. But at least I got to see.”
Sunday, Collier sat with family and focused on the play of redshirt freshman forward Talia Walton. Until Collier returns, Walton is playing the center position, taking tips from Collier on how to defend and compensate for being undersized in the paint.
Washington coach Kevin McGuff envisions Collier and Walton on the court together next year.
A bond has already formed through shared interests and experiences. Walton, who is musically talented, has Collier and freshman Heather Corral playfully sing backup to her creative beats. There’s mirror time, when the players dance or snap photos. And whenever Collier misses a moment on the road, Walton, who missed last season due to a knee injury, shares when the team returns.
“I know how it is,” said Walton. “Last year being here while the team is gone, you feel all sad and lonely.”
Dreams of the future help. Walton scored a career-high 26 points and had nine rebounds with three blocks against Arizona on Sunday. During the win streak, she has averaged 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds.
And Walton’s eight blocked shots the past three games makes Collier rub her hands together with anticipation, as if warming them over a fire.
During her senior season at Seattle Christian, Collier averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in 18 games, leading her team to the regional playoffs while undergoing chemotherapy.
Scouts compared her play to Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson, even noting how the budding post player sports long blonde hair like her WNBA idol. Collier and her father often watched Jackson play at KeyArena and she emulated Jackson’s moves.
“The thing that gets me hyped and amped the most is if you just block a shot,” Collier said with a gleam in her blue eyes. “That gives me chills and brings that energy in me. When Talia does that, I’m like ‘Yes!’ I get all excited.”
For now, Collier is permitted only to shoot jumpers within 15 feet of the hoop. She’s running in an underwater treadmill and she can use the elliptical trainers. The UW coaches hope she’ll begin non-contact drills and ball-handling by spring. Collier even wants to add a three-point shot like Walton’s to make the pair a bigger threat.
Washington’s incoming freshman class should arrive by summer for workouts, giving returning post players Collier, Walton, Aminah Williams and Mathilde Gilling time to mesh with signee Chantel Osahor, a 6-2 forward from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix.
Assistant coach Kevin Morrison specializes in post-position play, and describes Osahor’s game as being similar to Collier’s. Yet McGuff’s system has each player learning all five positions, so the lineups could be big or small depending on the matchups.
“I did dream about the future when we signed (Osahor),” Morrison said. “We looked at what we were doing and the evolution of the program and our roster. After that, it was back to the business of day-to-day, making sure our team gets better.”
The same goes for Collier, rehabilitating her knee to turn dreams into reality.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans.