Friday, for the third straight year, the Minnesota Lynx held a special practice -- the "Dream Team" practice.
It starts when five kids are signed to an honorary, one-day contract, and a press conference is held announcing those signings. And then those kids get teamed up with Lynx players for some on-court activity.
photo courtesy Minnesota Lynx
It's part of the Minnesota Lynx FastBreak Foundation, and the Dream Team is composed of kids from various local organizations who are facing difficulties and challenges in their lives.
It never fails to pull on heartstrings.
"This is amazing, this is important,'' Rebekkah Brunson said. She was squatting down next to 11-year-old Millie Muller (pictured above). Muller came to the Dream Team from HopeKids, which provides events and activities for families with children with life-threatening medical conditions. Muller has a congenital heart defect, something she deals with while helping others; she annually holds a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital on her birthday.
"It's very cool,'' Muller said of her experience. "I feel great to be here. It's really fun. I feel really special.''
Playing games of H-O-R-S-E with Seimone Augustus was 14-year-old Timothy Watkins, who came to the Dream Team from Tubman, an agency that helps people of all ages experiencing relationship violence, exploitation, addiction or mental heal challenges.
Watkins was asked about Augustus' shooting skills. "They're OK,'' he said. "I'm better.''
This is something the players and coaches look forward to every year.
"You take young kids that are going through things on a daily basis – could be home life, could be physical, confidence issues, whatever it is – those are very real things,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "And to be able to use sport as a vehicle of change in so many ways, it's something that's special we get to do.''
The other members of this year's Dream Team? Maisy Martindale, a 10-year-old from HopeKids, who has had 40-plus surgeries and had a pacemaker implanted in her chest. Mia Houston is a 13-year-old who came from ACES (Athletes Committed to Educating Students), an organization dedicated to narrow the academic achievement gap for low-income students in the Twin Cities. Teagin Schmitz, a 14-year-old from the United Heros League, which provides sports equipment, camps and financial grands and game tickets to children of military service members.
Assistant coach James Wade was back at practice after returning from Russia, where he and Maya Moore were part of a EuroLeague title.
Moore should return to Minnesota next week after taking a few days to rest at her home in Atlanta, Reeve said. Moore is due next week, but probably won't take part in any practices before the Lynx play their second – and last – preseason game vs. Chicago at Target Center May 12.
Also at practice for the first time was backup center Temi Fagbenle, whose EuroLeague season was over. Fagbenle has been penciled in as a backup to starting center Sylvia Fowles, but her roster spot is not a lock.
The Lynx will leave for Des Moines Saturday morning. They will have a scrimmage/practice with the Washington Mystics on Saturday afternoon, then play the Mystics in the preseason opener Sunday afternoon.
Reeve said she will use her starters more in the scrimmage. The game will be an opportunity for her to give her rebuilt second unit a chance to get some on-court, in-game time together.