The Gophers women's basketball team's trip to the Final Four in 2004 was spearheaded by two standout players: Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville. With Whalen's Lynx set to face McCarville's New York Liberty on Sunday night -- the first time those two players have faced each other in Minnesota -- a ceremony honoring that Final Four squad is planned around the game. Both players answered the same questions at separate times from Michael Rand in advance of the showdown and celebration.
Q How much do you keep in touch with a lot of those players from the 2004 team?
McCarville Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep in touch as much as I've wanted. I know a couple of players got married, some are getting married. But with basketball, I'm not able to communicate as much as I'd like to. Christina Collison, I keep in touch with Shannon Bolden and Shannon Schonrock, every now and then on Facebook. With Whalen it's at least twice a year with basketball, sometimes more overseas, and we text each other. We stay in each other's business.
Whalen I've kept probably the most touch just from seeing Janel a bunch of times a year. We've hung out overseas and in WNBA cities. With [head coach] Pam [Borton], I've kept in great touch. ... And I got to see everyone last year at Shannon Bolden's wedding. A lot of it is weddings and something like this weekend. Otherwise a lot of e-mailing and texting. You keep in touch with people the best you can.
Q What is most memorable thing six years later about the Final Four run?
McCarville The Final Four was a blast. It was one of the best times of our life. No matter where we are now, we'll always remember that accomplishment. I remember the whole atmosphere of being there. Going up against Connecticut. Pulling in and having all the fans waiting for us. The fans in New Orleans when we came for the game. The whole state seemed to rally around us. A lot of people don't get to experience a Final Four. I was so glad to do it with such a great group.
Whalen I just remember how close our group was, our team. We just had a really good feeling we were going to win every game. We knew what every player was going to bring that night. It was the closest team I've ever been on in terms of hanging out. That's why it was such a special team. Those teams don't come around that often. ... And the great fan support, of course. Everyone in Louisiana. Things you'll never forget.
Q What do you imagine it will be like playing against each other back in Minnesota?
McCarville It's not like we play the same position. ... I might leave to double-team her once or twice. Fans might have more fun with it than me and her. But we'll probably laugh about it afterwards.
Whalen I think it will be special for us. It's always special when we play against each other. We know each other's game so well. We know even before it happens on the court. And I think it will be special for a lot of fans. There will be some extra adrenaline and excitement for the game. We have natural competitiveness, and we're great friends off the court.
Q Are there any untold stories from 2004 that you can now share -- funny, memorable, whatever?
McCarville They never became public for a reason! But one thing I'd say, on the court we're basketball players. We liked to have fun off the court. That was one thing that made us special. We had great team chemistry. ... But most of the stories are best saved for the closed-door situations.
Whalen Oh boy. Let me see. ... I think after we made it to the Final Four and there was the reception at Williams Arena was memorable. I watched the men's reception on TV in 1997 after they made the Final Four, and that was something you dream of happening one day, a celebration for your team. To actually do it and have us come back, pulling up and seeing all the fans, it was pretty cool.