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Former Platteville High standout to be inducted into Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame
Nicki Collen
Former Platteville High School standout Nicki (Taggart) Collen will be inducted into the WBCA Hall of Fame Sept. 24 in Wisconsin Dells. Collen led the Baylor women to a 28–7 record last year in her first season as the Bears’ head coach.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.

By Jason Nihles, The Platteville Journal

Nicki (Taggart) Collen, former Platteville girls basketball / current Baylor women's basketball coach
The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association announced its 2022 Hall of Fame induction class in January.

Former Platteville High School standout player Nicki (Taggart) Collen will be part of the 30-person Class of 2022 that will be inducted at a Hall of Fame Banquet Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Glacier Canyon Lodge of the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells. 

Collen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player. She was a four-year all-conference point guard and three-time all-area pick at Platteville, where she graduated in 1993. 

She amassed 1,381 career points (which was the school record until Sami Martin broke it during the 2019–20 season) and averaged 17 points, 10 assists and five steals per game as a senior to earn co-SWAL I Most Valuable Player honors. She was named second-team all-state as a junior and senior, and was also an Academic All-State honoree and a 4.0 student. 

Collen’s collegiate playing career began at Purdue in 1993–94, when the Boilermakers made an NCAA Final Four run with a 29–5 overall record and a 16–2 mark in the Big Ten. 

Her sophomore season, Purdue went 24–8 and  made another deep run with an Elite Eight appearance. 

Despite the success at Purdue, Collen transferred to Marquette after her sophomore season, where she tallied 421 assists in her final two seasons. She averaged 7 assists per game in her last 60 collegiate games and helped the Golden Eagles to two-straight NCAA tournament appearances in 1997 and 1998. Collen then spent one year playing professionally in Greece.

After her playing days were over, Collen eventually made the transition from player to coach after a brief stop in Chicago, where she took an engineering job at Motorola as a 23-year-old.

Her collegiate coaching career spanned nine seasons (2000–04, 2011–2016) with a six-year break in the middle to start a family — having a pair of twins (a boy and a girl) and another daughter two years later —  prior to her arrival in WNBA in 2018. 

Collen began her coaching career an assistant at Colorado State from 2000–02, followed by one season at Ball State (2002–03), one at Louisville (2003–04), three at Arkansas (2011–14) and two at Florida Gulf Coast (2014–16).  Her teams’ posted a combined record of 214–74 (a .743 win percentage) during nine seasons while she was an NCAA Division I assistant coach. 

As an assistant, Collen helped guide four different squads to the NCAA tournament, reaching the second round in three of those seasons. She spent six of her nine seasons as an assistant under her husband Tom Collen, during stops at Colorado State, Louisville and Arkansas. She also coached under Tracy Roller at Ball State and Karl Smesko at Florida Gulf Coast, who has the third-highest active winning percentage in NCAA Division I. 

Nicki Collen helped the FGCU program to a 64–9 record and the school’s first NCAA Tournament win during her two-year tenure at the school. 

In her nine seasons at the collegiate level, Collen coached three All-Americans and saw three players selected in the WNBA Draft. 

Collen then spent two seasons under head coach, Curt Miller of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, helping the franchise improve from fifth in the East Division to second from 2016 to 2017, respectively. 

From there, she became the head coach of the Atlanta Dream, where she spent three seasons (2018–20). Her rookie season in Atlanta resulted in a 23–11 season in 2018. She was named the WNBA Coach of the Year and helped the franchise reach the semifinals of the WNBA playoffs.

Collen then went on to become the head coach at Baylor University.  In her first season with the Bears, she led the team to a 28–7 mark including 15–3 in the Big 12. She helped lead the Bears to their 12th-straight Big 12 regular-season title and their 11th-straight season as a 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

Additionally, her first recruiting class was ranked ninth in the country. Collen implemented her system which featured more perimeter shooting. Baylor went from the bottom of the list nationally to just outside the top 50 in 3-pointers made. In her first season, the Bears set new program records for 3-pointers made (233) and attempted (678).

From her introductory press conference, the Naismith Coach of the Year semifinalist said the Bears would be playing their best basketball late in the season, and she was right.

Baylor became the first team to defeat a ranked opponent twice in a three-day span since 1999 when the Bears downed Texas two times to open the month of February. Two weeks later, exactly a month after sitting at the bottom of the conference standings with an 0-2 record, BU was back atop the league’s leaderboard. Collen implemented the 1-0 mentality that paid off with a 25-point win at No. 8 Iowa State in front of a nearly sold-out crowd of 13,000 raucous fans which clinched the conference crown. Baylor became the first team since Texas Tech in 2000 to start a Big 12 season 0-2 and go on to win the league.

After her first season ended in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Collen saw three of her players be selected in the 2022 WNBA Draft, tying a program record. Two of them - Nalyssa Smith (No. 2) and Queen Egbo (No. 10) marked the first duo to be taken in the top 10 in program history.

Nicki and her husband Tom have three children: Connor, Reese and Logan.