Texas’ best-kept secret from the 2018-19 season is out of the bag: Charli Collier can do it all.
After a quiet first season in the burnt orange and white where she averaged just 5.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, the sophomore center has emerged as a constant driving force for a surging Longhorn squad.
As Texas has won 10 of its last 12, Collier has solidified her place as the most consistent offensive player on this team. She has averaged 14.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, leading the Longhorns in both categories.
“She’s going from coming off the bench, maybe not pressure, not expectations, to the prime-time player that she came here to be,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said in a preseason press conference.
It’s clear at this point that when Collier is on, so is Texas. The last time the Longhorns fell — a five-point loss to ranked West Virginia — Collier finished three of 9 from the field and played just 26 minutes after picking up four fouls. In their only other conference loss this season, which was Jan. 3 against TCU, she shot a season-low 20% from the field and finished with just five points.
But the best part about Collier’s game this season is that lackluster performances such as those are few and far between. In her 19 starts, she’s scored less than 10 points just four times. Her season-low rebound total was five in a win over Iowa State in which she played only 25 minutes.
Collier has added a 3-pointer to her arsenal, making her a threat at any spot on the floor. After shooting 29% on just 17 threes last season, Collier has made 42% of her 47 attempts from deep in 2019-20. While those aren’t high-volume numbers, her 20 threes so far are the most by any Longhorn this season.
“It’s definitely different, a drastic difference from last year,” Collier said in a press conference after the Nov. 14 game against UTSA, Texas’ first win this season. “Just playing now, being more comfortable, starting — it’s all different for me. I feel like I’m adjusting to it well, and if I continue to practice how I play, I’ll continue to grow.”
In her first season as a starter, Collier has evolved into a nightly double-double machine. Senior forward Joyner Holmes has followed right behind.
Holmes has averaged 13.9 points and nine rebounds per game. She’s also second on the team with 43 assists, adding more than just pure scoring. Yet for all the consistency of the two members of the Texas frontcourt, the rest of the Texas roster has had its share of ups and downs. And maybe that’s OK.
If Collier and Holmes are the backbone of this Texas team, the rest of the starting lineup is the heart that keeps things flowing. Holmes and senior guard Sug Sutton follow Collier with 13.9 and 10.4 points per game each. But these are just two of Texas’ spark plugs that can carry the load for the Longhorns in any given game.
“There has to be a real selfless behavior to say, ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team,’” Aston said of the depth of the team.
In a win over now-16–4 Tennessee, Collier put up just four points on 2-of-8 shooting. Yet Sutton and senior guard Lashann Higgs each finished with 19, and the Longhorns escaped with the win. Against Iowa State, Holmes and Higgs each scored 17 on another rare off night from Collier. The Longhorns left Ames, Iowa, with an 81-75 victory.
On any night, any other member of Texas’ rotation has the ability to put the Longhorns’ offense on their back. When one is down, the other picks them up, and that’s what makes this team a true contender.
There are some clear marks of teams poised to be a postseason threat. Nobody wants to face a team that’s hot off a winning streak, and nobody wants to face a team with a player that can heat up at any moment.
The Longhorns have more than one player that fits that bill. If Collier and Holmes can continue to hold down the inside, Texas looks ready to continue to make strides as it gears up for some late-season magic.