Sunday, November 8, 2015

Aliyah Collier: an automatic All AugBball Team member

Clemson freshman Aliyah Collier, a 2015 Laney graduate who led the Wildcats to a state championship her senior season, joins Augusta University's Keshun Sherrill as the second of seven "first ballot" members of the All AugBball Team.

Collier does it all on the court. Her performance in the state championship game last season was truly remarkable as her stat line indicates: 24 points, 19 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals. She made 16 of 20 free throws in the season's biggest game.

But the moments I remember most fondly have nothing to do with statistics:

Watching from the bench with first half foul trouble on senior night against Washington County, Aliyah looked truly depressed. All players want to play. But being forced to sit appeared to eat her up in a way different from most. When she returned in the second half, she led a route that extended a historic Laney run through post season play. This was when I first realized her enthusiasm for the game and for winning was different than most players'.

In Laney's state playoff quarterfinal matchup against then undefeated and #1 ranked Dawson County, Aliyah covered the court's entire 94 feet, blocking shots, stealing passes, grabbing rebounds, assisting teammates, and showing the emotion that could no longer be contained in her final home game.

In the state semifinals on Columbus State University's court, the Lady Wildcats seemed nervous and had trouble converting easy opportunities. But Collier's defensive presence, rebounding, and unselfish play ensured the opportunities would keep coming. And she and her teammates converted enough of them to advance to the state championship game.

In the season's most important game, Aliyah posted the season's most impressive stat line (see first paragraph). And after adorably choking up during an on-court interview immediately after the final buzzer, Collier joined the Georgia Public Television crew and gave a most impressive interview (see in the video above).

For most of last season, I focused solely on boys basketball. But watching Collier as I waited for Laney's boys games made me change my plans. She eventually became my favorite high school player of the season. And the second of seven "first ballot" All AugBball players.

Collier scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Clemson's first two exhibition games.

Now she begins the next chapter in her AugBball story as a freshman starter at Clemson.

With Sherrill and Collier's player profiles now released, I'll continue soon with the remaining five All AugBball members. Then I'll post player profiles of the next 15 or so players to watch this season. And I'll look forward to seeing how many more will earn a spot during the 2015-16 season.

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