Lindsay Whalen came to the podium for her weekly briefing Monday. Deadpan, she began: “We’ve had a week of practice,’’ she said. “We’re still undefeated.’’
But seriously, folks: Whalen’s Gophers women’s basketball team has had a week’s worth of full practices. They are still a full month away from their season opener, so Tuesday’s briefing was something of a status update on a new coach working with the team on new things.
Here are some highlights of that briefing:
-- Whalen made it clear her playing days are over – she reiterated again Tuesday that she’s more likely to talk her team through a drill that show it to them. (“My knees are achy,’’ she joked, ‘’and I’m tired and sore.’’) But she said she has been surprised at how enjoyable the coaching process is. Whalen used to love to practice just because she loved to play so much. As a player, when injured, she said she kind of hated having to sit and watch. But, she said, coaching has so far been very gratifying.
-- Whalen has already instituted a lot of Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve’s drills and practice norms into her scheme. For example: Reeve starts every practice with a competitive shooting drill, which sets the tone for the day. Whalen does the same with her team. The goal is to make every practice as competitive as possible, Whalen said.
-- The process of working on man-to-man defense – something Whalen has vowed to add to the Gophers arsenal this season – has been an up and down process. “We’re adjusting, getting there,’’ Whalen said. “But there are better days than others. Yesterday wasn’t one of our better days.’’
-- Whalen said the Gophers will have to mix up their defense, using both man-to-man and zone. “We’re going to have to make sure we’re keeping people on their toes,’’ Whalen said.
-- Whalen is already working with senior Kenisha Bell on getting her to the next level. Namely, being drafted by a WNBA team. She’s doing it using one of the same motivators Reeve used with Whalen. Midway through her first year with the Lynx, Reeve challenged Whalen to treat every practice like a game situation, with goals for scoring, rebounding and assists. It helped Whalen take her game to a new level, and now she’s returning the favor. “I feel that, along with working hard, being a good teammate, it will take her to the next level,’’ Whalen said. “I want it just as bad as she does.’’
-- Whalen is counting on junior forward Taiye Bello to take a big jump in her game. She and Annalese Lamke will play the majority of the post minutes for the Gophers this year.
-- Freshman Mercedes Staples, injured a week ago – she spent most of that practice watching with a walking boot on her left ankle – was back at practice Monday. Whalen is counting on Mercedes to play a lot in her first year. She and Bell, according to Whalen, are two of the best on the team playing off the bounce, shooting in rhythm. Meanwhile, guard Gadiva Hubbard rode a bike with a brace on her right foot/ankle.