Natalie Collins is entering her fourth season as a starter for the Eastern girls’ basketball team.
As a freshman she helped the Eagles to an 18-9 record. As a sophomore she averaged 12.2 points per game while making a team-high 62 3-pointers for Eastern, which advanced to the Seventh Region title game for the first time in program history. Last season Collins took on the role of point guard and her scoring (6.3 ppg) and made 3-pointers (32) dipped as the Eagles went 21-7, finishing with a blowout loss to Manual in the Seventh Region semifinals.
This season the 5-foot-10 Collins will be back at her natural position (shooting guard) for Eastern.
Q: How long have you been playing basketball?
A: I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember. I was always just in the gym, always around it. My earliest memories are ones with a ball.
Q: You are known as a shooter. Where does your shooting ability come from?
A: I think it came with growing up, I always played up. I don’t think I played with my age group until I played with boys my fifth-grade year. I think always being the smallest one, I was a fourth-grader playing against sixth-graders, you kind of have to know how to step out and shoot or else you’re going to get clobbered. I think that’s where that came from. And just always being in the gym, always getting up shots, of course.
Q: What’s that like when opposing teams know you’re a shooter and game-plan for you?
A: It’s definitely fun to hear someone running at you yelling “shooter.” If the close-out is late and you end up getting it off anyways, that’s always fun to hear. But there’s more to me than just a shooter.
Q: What did you work on in the offseason?
A: Definitely getting stronger. I’m beginning to notice (that) as we play in scrimmages. Also, just tightening up my handle and that comes with getting stronger as you’re able to take bumps in traffic, and that’s definitely helped out a lot.
Q: You signed with Alabama A&M last week. Why did you choose A&M?
A: I went down there for a visit and instantly just loved it. I was talking to Coach (Margaret) Richards about every day that week before I went down there. I loved the atmosphere and I got to meet basically all the important people at the school, all the coaches of course and the AD. By the time I got done it felt like I was supposed to be there. It felt like it was just meant to happen.
Q: What do you plan on majoring in?
A: Business management.
Q: What’s your career goal?
A: I’m going to minor in Criminal Law, so eventually, hopefully, one day I’ll manage a law firm.
Q: What are the goals for this season?
A: One of the goals for us is to just all be on the same page and helping each other out, which helps the team move forward. … One thing about this team, we just love helping each other out, that’s what makes this team, I think, one of the best teams that’s come through Eastern. And hopefully this season shows it.
Q: Has the team set the goal of making it back to the Seventh Region championship game?
A: Most definitely. We weren’t happy with how last season ended. Not even just that one game, just the entire season, how it ended up going. So definitely that is one of the goals. I think we’ll get there if we stick to playing together and encouraging each other, then that will just come with it.
Q: You wear No. 22. Is there any significance to that?
A: Yeah Cierra Ricketts, who went to Fairdale, (wore 22). I basically grew up in the gym with her.
NATALIE COLLINS UP CLOSE
Student-athlete: Natalie, who has a 3.7 GPA and is a member of the mock trial/debate team at Eastern, says her favorite class is law & justice.
Family: Natalie, 18, lives with her mom, Kari Peterson, and her younger siblings: brother Jaelen, 13, and sister Naomi, 11.
Eastern coach Josh Leslie says: “Natalie is an excellent leader, both in the classroom and on the court. She has always been willing to do whatever we need in order to benefit our team. I think that she is an excellent model of what we want all of our student athletes to be – dedicated, hard-working, coachable, team-oriented and dedicated to everything we do on the court, in the classroom and in the community. It has been my pleasure to coach her these last four seasons.”