After practice Saturday – their last before Sunday’s season opener vs. Chicago at Xcel Energy Center – Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talked about Friday’s roster decision. The Lynx kept backup center/forward Temi Fagbenle and guard Alexis Jones – both rookies – while waiving Chinese forward Shao Ting.
It wasn’t an easy decision. The three WNBA rookies were all good enough to make the roster. With the competition so close, it ultimately came down to two things – the fact that the Lynx could only keep 11 players and roster balance.
“Now we have a third point guard [in Jones], a third ball handler,’’ Reeve said. “Having that on the roster is always a good thing. And then having the extra big. Ultimately it came down to a position, not whether she was good enough. It came down to roster balance.’’
Jones was the team’s first-round draft pick in April. Fagbenle was a little different story. Born to Nigerian parents and raised in Great Britain, she didn’t start playing the game until she was 14. She played three years at Harvard and one at USC while pursuing a graduate degree. She was taken by the Lynx in the third round of the 2016 draft, but didn’t play last season because she wanted to finish that graduate degree.
She is 6-5 and athletic, but raw in basketball terms. There was one primary thing she had to prove in this camp to make the team:
“That she could play pick-and-roll defense,’’ Reeve said. “When you have a post player, if they show an aptitude of being able to play your defensive schemes, you can put ‘em in the game.’’
In that area Fagbenle – who already has some offensive skill – improved dramatically as training camp wore on. “It was new for her,’’ Reeve said. “It’s not like the schemes are hard. It’s just the repetitions in doing it. And changing your mindset, doing it every day. She’s a fast learner. The first three days, when she really struggled, we were like, ‘uh, oh.’ And then she got it after those three days, and she hasn’t lost it. So that was a big reason.’’
Here are a few other notes from Saturday’s practice:
--All 11 players on the roster are healthy and ready to go, according to Reeve.
--Reeve praised her veterans for the energy they put into this training camp, which consisted of two preseason games and 13 practices. “Veterans don’t like to be in training camp,’’ she said. “They don’t make any secrets about that. But they were eager. There was nothing that we did that they didn’t approach with energy and passion.’’