When the Lynx earlier this month announced the signing of Shao Ting, a 6-foot forward from China, it meant they were getting an intriguing player with plenty of confidence. After all, in one of her first sessions with local reporters, she was asked if she was star-struck by all the Lynx players. Her response: “I think I’m a star, too.” And why wouldn’t she? Shao, 27, plays in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association for Beijing, which recently won its second consecutive league championship. She averaged 12.8 points while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. She also played for China in the Rio Olympic Games last summer. After having a few practices with the Lynx, Shao chatted recently with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand.
Q How has the transition from China to Minnesota gone so far?
A It was a long distance, and I spent 20 hours getting here. I’m a little tired, but I’ve enjoyed every day in Minnesota.
Q What made you want to come here and try to play in the WNBA?
A I think this is a big stage. I think I have the ability to play in the WNBA. I also want to learn some new basketball plays and ways of playing defense. This team is very strong and has won WNBA championships. But I also won a championship in China. So I want to learn something from this team.
Q Did the Lynx specifically appeal to you because of their success?
A I think there are two reasons. The first is I knew [Lynx center Sylvia Fowles], and she played on my team in China on my Beijing club. When we were there, she told me a lot about the Lynx, so I always hoped I could come one day and play on this team and play with her. Another thing is the Lynx are a wonderful team that has won the championship three times. I wanted to join and share in that.
Q How much confidence did you gain from playing in the Olympics last year?
A They were a very important experience. They gave me a lot of things to learn. It’s very hard for a student to take part in the Olympic Games. I appreciate my coach, and I learned a lot of things. It was an unforgettable experience.
Q As you said, you’re a doctoral student in China. That’s impressive. How do you balance that with playing basketball?
A I think the most important thing is that when I’m learning at school I should put my focus on studies. When I’m playing basketball, I should focus on training. That’s the key to doing both.
Q How popular is basketball in China?
A It’s becoming more popular, particularly in the university. The national team is playing more international games and is letting the world know China is a winning team.
Q I saw the Lynx having their usual post-practice fun today, including singing happy birthday to one of the players. What do you think of practices here and that element?
A I think it’s very happy to train here. It’s different from China. Everybody comes here and enjoys practice not just to practice. When someone has a birthday, everyone celebrates. I’m enjoying it.