Charli Collier is a veteran of two USA Basketball national team trials and is used to facing older players, but her bid to make the 2017 U-19 squad this weekend has a different feel.
The 6-foot-4 forward and University of Connecticut Class of 2018 commit from Mont Belvieu, Texas, is one of three players at the trials with high school eligibility remaining. 23 of the 33 players invited to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently finished their freshman year of college, including UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield and seven others who played against the Huskies.
"I trained differently than I did a year ago for this age group because you have players that have college experience here," Collier said in a phone interview Friday. "They're stronger and faster and more physical and playing against them is going to be great for me going back to my high school team. Next year, I'll be a senior, I'll be 18 and headed to Connecticut, so this is a cool experience.
"You can see with those players the difference and Crystal has already come out and is doing a heck of a job. USA Basketball does a great job developing players."
The trials for the team that will play in the FIBA U-19 World Cup that will be held July 22-30 in Udine and Cividale del Friuli, Italy, began Thursday night and run through Sunday.
Collier was a member of the U-17 national team a year ago and averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 7.7 minutes per game as Team USA won the bronze medal at the FIBA U-17 world championships in Zaragoza, Spain. Her U-17 teammates -- UConn recruiting target Christyn Williams and Texas commit Sedona Prince -- are the other high school players in camp.
Also in Colorado Springs for the trials are UConn incoming freshmen Mikayla Coombs and Megan Walker.
Among the post players Collier is competing for a roster spot with are Texas' Joyner Holmes, Maryland's Stephanie Jones, Oregon's Ruthy Hebard, and South Florida's Tamara Henshaw, the American Athletic Conference 2017 Freshman of the Year. All played against the Huskies last season.
Collier has been working out since the end of her junior season at Barbers Hill High and felt prepared for the pace and the altitude in Colorado Spring. The snow that fell in the area Wednesday was a surprise.
"It was really cold here last night," Collier said with a laugh.
"I think the key for me is not trying to do too much," she added. "They've seen me play and they know what I can do or I wouldn't be here. I want to be a good team player, be vocal, and do the little things that will help a team."
Collier, who is rated the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2018 by Prospects Nation and No. 2 by ESPNHoopgurlz, averaged 23.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 3.0 blocked shots as a junior in leading Barbers Hill to a 34-5 record and the Texas Class 5A state semifinals. She was her district's Most Valuable Player, an All-State selection, and a third team Naismith Trophy All-America pick.
Prior to the season, she announced her verbal commitment to UConn after taking an unofficial visit to Storrs in October and attending the annual First Night program at Gampel Pavilion. While players are happy the recruiting process is over, the expectations are still there.
"I've never been concerned or worried about what coaches were watching me play," Collier said. "On the other side, you always hear, 'She's going to UConn so she has to play well.' That's not true. But you do have that target on you.
"I think our team just came together and matured. It wasn't just me. It was everyone on the team. And we made a big jump."
She'll enter her senior season with 2,274 points, 933 rebounds, and 247 blocked shots.
She said her favorite all-time player is Michael Jordan but her top 2016 United States Olympian is former UConn All-American and 2012 WNBA Most Valuable Player Tina Charles of the New York Liberty.
"I had somebody, a coach or an old trainer, tell me that I reminded them of Tina," Collier said. "I watched some film of her and I thought that I played like her. She can play inside but she also has that midrange game. Of course, now there's a UConn connection. I like Candace Parker, too, but Tina's my favorite."
During her season, she followed her future UConn teammates. The Huskies reached their 10th consecutive NCAA Final Four and had their winning streak reach a record 111. But the streak and their four-year reign as national champion came to an end on March 31 when Morgan William's pull-up jumper gave Mississippi State a 66-64 overtime win in the semifinals at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
"I watched that game from beginning to end," Collier said. "When she made that shot at the buzzer, I fell to the floor. But sometimes a loss can be good and they'll come back stronger. Props to Mississippi State, they played great. But UConn had an amazing season. They won more than 100 in a row. Who does that? That's legendary."
Collier said she has been in touch with UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Marisa Moseley in the weeks leading up to the trials. She has no date set for when she'll take her official recruiting visit this fall.
The U-19 team is coached by Pittsburgh's Suzie McConnell-Serio. The chairperson of the selection committee is George Washington University coach and former UConn All-American Jennifer Rizzotti.