After a breakout season with the Lynx, Bridget Carleton went overseas to play basketball for a club team in Landerneau, France — a picturesque town with fewer than 16,000 people in the Brittany region in the northwest part of the country.
After the WNBA season ended in the bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Carleton went back to her native Canada and quarantined for two weeks. Then she went to France. She got there on a Monday, and was supposed to play her first game that Saturday. It didn’t happen: Rising COVID-19 cases forced a shutdown in France.
So Carleton basically sat. And waited.
“I live alone, which is nice,” Carleton said in a recent Zoom interview. “I live alone, I have my own car. I have access to a gym.”
The good news: After a hiatus, the team — and Carleton — were able to play a game before a break in the schedule. But after the break, it’s unclear how the team will move forward.
WNBA players augmenting their income by playing overseas is a time-honored tradition. But the pandemic has made that more difficult.
Of the players who were with the Lynx in the bubble during the 2020 season, only three are playing overseas: Carleton, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (Turkey) and Erica McCall (Hungary).
According to Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, Jessica Shepard — having recovered from surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered early in her rookie season in 2019 — likely will head overseas. Others could, as well, including Napheesa Collier. But many might stay home.
Reeve said there are fewer jobs available, citing Australia, Korea and, to some extent, China as countries with leagues that for now are not allowing foreign players.
Reeve admitted having players on teams overseas is a concern.
“It’s a risk,” Reeve said. “I worry about what we don’t know about COVID. I’m definitely worried about players in that situation. They’re not testing every day, and they’re not in a bubble. But it’s up to them.”
Carleton is tested once a week. Other than workouts in the gym, it’s been a solitary existence. The lockdown in the country allows only for trips to the grocery store. Carleton said people are allowed outside for an hour each day, but must stay one kilometer from their home.
“The country is in a lockdown, so that’s pretty much all we’ve been able to do,” she said. “It’s a little challenging, being in a foreign country, not being able to do anything. You spend a lot of time with your self, in your apartment. You can get kind of lonely.”
Herbert Harrigan is playing for a team in Kayseri, Turkey, where she has been reunited with her South Carolina roommate, Tyasha Harris. She is averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. She described a situation slightly different from Carleton’s.
Herbert Harrigan said one teammate tested positive before joining the team.
“Other than that, everything has been going smoothly,” said Herbert Harrigan, who is in the United States during a break in the schedule but will be heading back soon.
Herbert Harrigan said her team is tested twice a week. And any games played do not include fans. But this is might be a problem, too.
“There has been talk about whether this is financially feasible for clubs to keep playing,” Carleton said. “Some clubs, with more money, obviously want to keep playing. It’s different here. Everyone has different money situations.”
But 2020 has made people accustomed to adjusting to change. Reeve said she keeps in touch with her players.
“We make sure they’re OK,” she said. “Everyone knows what they should do.”
Right now all they can do is hope a season can be finished. The last time Carleton played in front of fans was in early February, when she was playing for Team Canada in an Olympic qualifier in Belgium.
“I think 2020 has been full of just, going with the flow. Rolling with the punches,” Carleton said. “You can’t really have too many expectations. And that’s been my mind-set since the pandemic hit. And that’s the mind-set I’ll continue to have.”