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WNBA star Napheesa Collier is a mom-to-be!
Collier, a forward for the Minnesota Lynx, and her fiancé, NBA and WNBA skills coach Alex Bazzell exclusively tell PEOPLE about their exciting baby news and share photos from their recent gender reveal announcement. "I have always wanted to be a mom," says Collier, who is expecting a baby girl.
The couple, who got engaged in October 2019, first met when she was a senior in high school and soon after, Bazzell became her full-time trainer when she was a freshman athlete at the University of Connecticut. They started dating her junior year and will soon be marking five years together.
"I think the most time we had spent together was really during the COVID pandemic. It allowed us to really be together in a sense of every single day, waking up, not really knowing what was going to happen with the world in general," Bazzell reflects on the past two years.
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Collier, 25, learned that she was pregnant after the recent WNBA season and she "blurted out" the news of their baby on the way during a phone call with Bazzell, who was in an Uber at the time.
"I was shocked," the father-to-be recalls. "But I think we're both ready. It's a new experience for us. I don't think a lot of the reality is fully set in yet because she's still six months away."
Collier jokes, "What's the saying, God laughs when people make plans? Yeah, it was just obviously a surprise, but it's such a blessing. And now, it forces you to take a step back and see what's really important in your life."
Bazzell, who trains Carmelo Anthony, Trae Young and Kyrie Irving, adds: "We had this vision of building a family. We just didn't know when that would take place or where that would take place, which I think we're still juggling some of those questions. But it's like anything else, the sports environment prepares us for something like that. We're adding one member to our team, and trying to figure out what's best collectively for the team."
The athlete says she's excited about motherhood and notes that her colleagues have shown her how to be a great mother and continue to dominate on the court. "Candace Parker would be someone that I look up to," she says of the Chicago Sky star, whom Bazzell also trains. "Because the way she's been able to be such an elite athlete, the love that she has for her daughter is so admirable and the way that she juggles it."
Collier shares, "I am super excited. The athletes that Alex trains, to have the kid be around them, to have them be around my teammates and have 11 other aunts. I'm really excited to see them around that environment, bring them into the world that we already live in."
Meanwhile, Bazzell, who calls Kobe Bryant his mentor and used to train Bryant's late daughter Gigi, names the late NBA great as his example of parental excellence.
"Kobe Bryant was the biggest mentor I've had, and how he raised his daughters. He didn't want to put added pressure on them, and he let them be kids. He wasn't trying to overstep and force what he was wanting to have happened with his children," Bazzell says.
"I think that's going to be important as well for both Phee and I. The natural progression is for someone to be like, 'Oh, you're going to be a basketball player because your mom's an athlete and your dad's the trainer.' So it's knowing how to navigate that and take pressure away from a kid, and letting them choose what their passion is," he continues.
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Collier, who won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, recognizes that "everything is going to be different" once they become parents, but she's determined to excel at first-time motherhood and in her career.
"I'm going to need to train just as hard. I'm going to have to train hard, but then I also have to get home to feed a baby. It'll definitely be a juggling and learning as I go kind of thing," she says about the future.
"I'm hopeful that the pregnancy goes smooth, Napheesa stays healthy and it goes as smoothly as possible for her and for the baby. Everything else after that will just be icing on the cake," Bazzell says.
Collier also imagines the day her child will be supporting her from the sidelines, a scene like something from the 2000 film Love & Basketball. "I have this vision in my head of Alex sitting with the baby just cheering me on at the games. I am really excited for that," she says.