This has happened before, so what Bridget Carleton is doing is no surprise.
Back in 2019 when the Lynx first signed the former Iowa State star and Canadian national team member to a seven-day contract, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve knew Carleton could shoot but wanted to see more. After seven days, Carleton was signed for the rest of that season.
When it ended, Reeve told Carleton she needed to get lighter, quicker and gave her an offseason workout regimen. When Carleton returned in 2020 she had transformed her body.
"Whatever I tell her, she's just going to add it," Reeve said. "She is willing to do whatever. She wants to play.''
It's really that simple.
So when Reeve told Carleton last fall she might be playing some off-guard in addition to small forward, Carleton spent the offseason getting lighter, working on her ballhandling. A lot of agility work.
The past suggests this will work out.
Last season Carleton went from a fringe player to a big part of the rotation on a team that surprised many by finishing fourth and advancing to the league semifinals without Sylvia Fowles much of the season.
And then, remember Aug. 5. With Fowles a late scratch, Carleton got her first WNBA start and responded with 25 points on 11-for-16 shooting, making all three three-pointers she took and getting seven rebounds in a victory over New York. She became the third player in league history with at least 25 points and five rebounds in her first league start. The others: teammate Napheesa Collier and Candice Parker.
Over the course of the season, the 6-1 Carleton played 25.8 minutes per game, made 52% of her shots overall, 45.7 % of her three-pointers while averaging 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds. "She has made herself incredibly valuable,'' Reeve said, "because she can play. We even have her initiating the offense at times. Credit to Bridget. She has a thirst for doing whatever the team needs.''
And this year the team wants more. There is a lot of talent at the three position, so Carleton is being asked to add some guard work to her résumé. This could be very important as the regular season starts should Kayla McBride's return from Europe be delayed.
But it's a big ask. Carleton's ability to shoot, set screens and pass will translate well on offense. But the difference between guarding a two vs. a three is huge. The jump in quickness can be startling.
"I'm excited,'' she said. "I played a lot of three last year; that's my comfort zone. Playing two is very similar, but you have to get quicker, faster, get off screens and guard the quick shooters in our league. And then being able to handle the ball.''
Carleton's confidence coming off last season is a big help. Last year was about proving she belonged in the league. "Now that I've kind of solidified my spot I want to continue to work hard and make an impact on this team and help us win,'' she said.
Backup post Natalie Achonwa, signed by the Lynx during the offseason, has been a teammate of Carleton's on the Canadian national team for years. This week she talked about the improvement she has seen in Carleton's game.
"Especially her confidence,'' Achonwa said. "Last year, in the bubble, you saw it, her breakout year. But her confidence, how much she's expanded her game? She's not just being pigeonholed into being just a shooter. She's a guard, she can post up. But being in an environment like this feeds into that.''
•Thursday the Lynx waived forward Alex Wittinger, a 2019 Illinois graduate and native of Delano.