Never underestimate the positive influence of an upbringing in the world of sports.

For Khalia Collier, the game of basketball not only fueled her competitive fire as a player but also ignited a passion to challenge herself in another way, as a sports executive.

In college, while playing for Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis, she found herself thinking about the next few stages of life.

“I’ve always been a learner focused on building relationships, surrounding myself with people that challenged me to become the best version of myself,” Collier said. “Along the journey, I explored different career paths, being in sales, business development, strategy, community engagement always working to play to my strengths.”

Collier is a self-described entrepreneur, pioneer and trailblazer, having risen to Vice President and Chief of Staff of Basketball Operations for the Dallas Mavericks – and owner of the St. Louis Surge. That’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Collier with the Class of 2023.

At only 23 years old, she took on the challenge of building the first sustainable women’s basketball franchise in St. Louis. Over a decade and two national championships later, the Surge has changed the game by redefining winning on and off the court by playing in the Global Women’s Basketball Association (GWBA).

Along the way, Collier unified communities through the power of sport with her previous role as Vice President of Community Relations for the St. Louis CITY SC, Major League Soccer franchise. On behalf of both organizations, Collier consistently focused on strengthening the region and developing the next generation.

Additionally, Collier’s civic leadership is all about being connected through personal community service, serving on several boards, giving back to young people and growing the platform for women’s leadership. It was a natural transition to accept the opportunity to continue trailblazing once again with the Mavericks.

And it all started on a basketball court at a YMCA, at age 5 when her dad was her coach.

“I knew I fell in love with the game in elementary school,” Collier said. “It was my favorite sport, and I had a basketball everywhere I went.”

Collier played her final three seasons of high school at Fort Zumwalt South High School. She started on varsity as a sophomore, playing shooting guard, and was recruited across the country.

“I always knew I wanted to play college basketball, and I worked hard every day and every offseason to develop and get better,” Collier said.

In college, she also threw her energy into becoming a sports executive, despite others doubting her.

“It has been challenging nearly every step of the way and I’ve had doubters, haters, and naysayers my entire career,” Collier said. “All it did was motivate me to continue to defy odds at every level.”

The Surge has been a hit.

“The Surge has been over a decade in the making of what feels like blood, sweat and tears,” Collier said. “From humble beginnings at a local middle school in East St. Louis, to Vashon High School, to Missouri-St. Louis, and then our now home at Washington University Fieldhouse, with a unique recruiting strategy and team building.”

Eventually, an executive firm recruited her for the Mavericks.

She now plays a key role in the ongoing development and execution of operational strategy and personnel. She is responsible for driving strategic initiatives, organizational management, communications and culture and engagement. Collier also oversees day-to-day operations to position the GM to focus on strategic priorities. She also leads the planning, preparation and facilitation to management routines, staff meetings and process implementation.

She has received numerous honors, including the St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 award, The YMCA’s MLK Human Dignity Award, Power 100 award, Glamour’s Missouri Woman of the Year award, the prestigious Jack Buck Award for community impact, and many others. In 2022, she was inducted into the Fort Zumwalt High School Athletics Hall of Fame.

It’s probably no surprise, then, that Collier is frequently invited to deliver keynote addresses and share her success story.

She credits many for her journey: Maxine Clark, Judge Staci Yandle, Mary Elizabeth Grimes, Neosha Hayes, and family and friends have been her rock.

And what’s her advice to young people?

“Your dreams are never too big with hard work and dedication,” Collier said. “Even when they feel impossible, trust and believe in yourself, you are always worth betting on despite what others may think.”