Former UConn women’s basketball star Napheesa Collier plays first WNBA game since birth of her child

Photo of Paul Doyle

Former UConn women’s basketball star Napheesa Collier gave birth to her first child on May 25.

Ten and a half weeks later, Collier was back on the court for a WNBA game. With her daughter, Mila, in the building — and wearing a Minnesota Lynx jersey — Collier played her first game of the season Sunday night at Target Center in Minneapolis.

Collier, who started for the Lynx, had six points, two rebounds and one assist in 21 minutes of Minnesota’s 81-71 win over the Atlanta Dream.

After recently resuming practice with the team, Collier’s return was a last-minute decision. She was expected to play 10-15 minutes, but she extended herself and coach Cheryl Reeve left her on the floor.

“I was really excited,” Collier told reporters after the game. “Obviously there’s some nerves coming in, especially this late in the season and trying to get back here and rush to do everything. But it felt so good to, you know, hear my name called and have the fans cheer for me. It was a really good feeling, so I’m really glad I played tonight.”

Collier, a two-time All-American at UConn, was motivated to return this season to play with Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after the season.

The Lynx (13-20) are also battling for a playoff spot. Minnesota has three regular-season games remaining, and the season ends Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena against the Connecticut Sun.

“I really want to get a play where I can pass to (Fowles) one last time,” Collier said. “It’s always so nice to play with Syl. She’s a huge presence, a Hall of Famer. Anytime she’s on the floor, obviously good things happen. It’s so cool to see greatness happening, especially for her last season. We’re making history doing this and I’m seeing history being made.”

Collier, who conducted her postgame news conference with her daughter on her lap, was asked how becoming a mother has changed her.

“It’s definitely changed my perspective,” she said. “Before, the most important thing in my life was my family and basketball. Now she’s definitely No. 1. My family is so important to me. So she definitely gives me perspective where I’m doing this for her now. I’m not just doing it for me. I love the idea of her watching me play. She won’t remember this, but hopefully I’ll be playing for a long time to come and we can grow up together around this game that I love.”

paul.doyle@hearstmediact.com