You need to draft a point guard, the experts said. We’ll take the best player available, Lynx general manager and coach Cheryl Reeve insisted.
Well, maybe both?
With the sixth pick in Friday’s WNBA draft the Lynx took South Carolina forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, a player so intense — especially on defense — that she was given the name “Mad Kiki’’ by Gamecocks fans.
Then, in the second round — 16th overall — Reeve took Connecticut guard Crystal Dangerfield, a former teammate of reigning rookie of the year Napheesa Collier. Reeve said she got much pre-draft lobbying from Collier to take her. Dangerfield is an undersized guard (5-5) who is used to playing on the big stage. Then the Lynx traded Stephanie Talbot to New York for its third-round pick, Rice guard Erica Ogwumike, the younger sister of WNBA stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.
In Herbert Harrigan the Lynx get a player whose draft stock had risen in recent days, a player seemingly ready to play at the WNBA level on the defensive end with a big upside on the offensive side.
Even Reeve admitted that it was a surprise pick but one that became clear to her after Bella Alarie was taken by Dallas with the fifth pick. It can also be seen as insurance in case Jessica Shepard is slow to return from ACL surgery.
But even Herbert Harrigan was surprised. “I wasn’t expecting to get my name called that early,’’ she said. “I’m happy for that. Really excited. I’m very excited to play under [Reeve].’’
And about that nickname? “I got that from my fans,’’ she said. “It pretty much comes from my competitive spirit and aggression on the court. It’s a part of my defense.’’
And it’s that intensity that tipped the scales. “I would think that’s the most translatable [to the WNBA],’’ Reeve said. “Her passion for what she’s doing. The shot-blocking, that’s translatable.’’
Guard was a need, for sure. But looking at the draft, Reeve said she felt the team needed to grab a forward early, hoping a guard would be available later. In the end the Lynx came out of the draft with a roster that looks more balanced than it did going in.
During Herbert Harrigan’s time at South Carolina, the Gamecocks won an NCAA title (2017), reached the Elite Eight (2018) and the Sweet 16 (2019). She averaged 13.1 points, a career-high 5.6 rebounds, shot 50.6% overall and 43.5% on three-pointers as a senior. She finished her career as one of only three players from the program (A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates are the others) to score 1,000 points and block 200 shots. Her 210 blocks are second in program history.
Reeve expects her to become the mentee of Lynx assistant Plenette Pierson. She sees a lot of similarities between the two, especially the intensity. There are challenges when taking a player as volatile as Herbert Harrigan. Reeve expects to utilize the good right away, and have Pierson and fellow assistant Rebekkah Brunson work with the rest, channeling that intensity in the most productive way.
Herbert Harrigan will need to rebound better, something Reeve believes she can do. Herbert Harrigan also knows Lynx center Sylvia Fowles well, having played for Fowles’ AAU team in Miami.
Dangerfield’s selection gives the Lynx a true point guard and continues a tradition of taking players out of coach Geno Auriemma’s storied program. Ogwumike will provide even more competition at the guard position, which figures to be fierce when and if training camps open.
And there is depth, now, at some positions should the pandemic the world is currently dealing with affect the ability of some foreign players to make it to the United States for the season.
“I would say our roster looks balanced,’’ Reeve said. “And we improved our three-point shooting.’’