Gophers women's basketball coach Lindsay Whalen's historic career as a player for her alma mater led to a generation of players wanting to wear her No. 13 in maroon and gold.
Whalen's Gophers jersey was raised into the Williams Arena rafters a year after she led the program to the Final Four in 2004. No player has worn her number since. Until this season.
That honor will fall upon sixth-year senior guard Gadiva Hubbard this season, Whalen officially announced during a news conference about the team's first practice Tuesday.
"[Hubbard] stuck here all four years with me," Whalen said. "That's a number she wanted to wear, so I'm real proud she's going to wear it. After that, we'll see."
Hubbard — who is working on her master's degree in sport management — is one of 12 players returning from last season's 8-13 team. The 5-9 Virginia Beach native averaged 11.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season. She led the Gophers in free-throw percentage (92.1).
Expectations won't be high at all for Hubbard wearing her coach's old number, Whalen joked. She only finished as the U's career leading scorer and went on to win four WNBA titles with the Lynx and two Olympic gold medals.
"I like to give [Hubbard] a hard time," Whalen said. "'There used to be a No. 13, she could make a nice pass. … I can't remember her name, it was such a long time ago.'"
A year ago, the Gophers weren't able to practice much during the fall because most of the team was quarantined after COVID-19 issues. They only had seven healthy players for the opener last season, but Whalen said she had 13 players taking the court ready to compete Tuesday.
"A week before our first game we had three players in practice," Whalen said about last year. "So it's nice to have the full complement of players. It's a lot different in that aspect. We're so much further ahead like everybody."
Whalen welcomes newcomers such as North Carolina A&T transfer Deja Winters, Kansas transfer Bailey Helgren and freshmen Maggie Czinano and Alanna Micheaux.