Friday’s Gophers women’s basketball season opener against New Hampshire at Williams Arena is an announced sell out and a tribute to first-year coach Lindsay Whalen, but it’s a benefit for everyone on the team.
So while Whalen — who experienced a similar environment during her Gophers playing days — is appreciative of the gesture, she’s most happy for her players.
“It was such a good memory and such an unbelievable feeling as a player,” she said. “I’m just excited that they get to experience that.”
Senior guard Kenisha Bell, along with her teammates, sat high in the balcony’s second row back in the fall of 2017, when Whalen and the Lynx won the deciding Game 5 of the 2017 WNBA Finals. “It was crazy,” she said. “It was so many fans. And then, just watching them win that championship game was unbelievable.”
Did she ever think she’d get to play in front of a similar crowd?
“I’ve always pictured it in my head,” Bell said. “But I never knew it was going to come. That game [Friday], it will be a dream come true.”
Working on rotations
Whalen figures to start a backcourt of Bell and junior Jasmine Brunson, with sophomore Destiny Pitts and junior Taiye Bello at forward and senior Annalese Lamke at center.
As for her substitution rotation? She hasn’t completely settled on that. “Still working on it,” Whalen said. “We’ll see how things go [at practice Thursday].”
Old friends visit
The Lynx will be well represented at the Gophers opener. Whalen’s former teammates Sylvia Fowles, Danielle Robinson, Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson and assistant general manager Clare Duwelius will be in a suite. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, a season ticket-holder, is on a family vacation and can’t make it. Fowles and Augustus are flying into town specifically for the game.
“That’s family,” Whalen said. “We’ve become so close over the years. I didn’t know Syl and Seimone were going to fly in for the game. The fact they’re doing that shows how, when you do something special together, you truly become family.”