A chapter in Minnesota women’s basketball history might be closing.
Center Janel McCarville told the Lynx she will not play this summer. The reason is unclear, but McCarville informed the Lynx shortly before coach Cheryl Reeve headed to Las Vegas earlier this month for the USA Basketball national team minicamp. It was, Reeve said, completely McCarville’s decision.
“She decided she didn’t want to play,” Reeve said. “It was purely her decision.”
Reeve said McCarville was in the team’s plans for the 2015 season — the final year of her contract — right up until her agent informed the team of her decision not to play.
McCarville did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
The team responded by acquiring veteran center Asjha Jones from the Connecticut Sun, and she will open camp Sunday as the front-runner to replace McCarville in the starting lineup.
Jones, 34, has not played in the WNBA the past two seasons because of injuries. But she has continued playing overseas. Reeve described Jones as an effective low-post scorer.
McCarville’s decision suggests that her time playing in a Minnesota jersey has ended. She starred at the University of Minnesota, then returned for two seasons to play for the Lynx, helping the team win the WNBA title in 2013.
“Obviously she’s an icon,” said Pam Borton, who coached Lynx star Lindsay Whalen and McCarville at Minnesota when the pair helped lead the Gophers to the NCAA Final Four in 2004. “When people think of Janel they think of a fun player to watch, a flashy player. And her emotions. She wore her emotions on her sleeve.”
McCarville, 32, still is ranked in the top 10 in several categories on the Gophers’ career lists. She is first in school history with 49 double-doubles and a 58.2 shooting percentage and is second in blocks and rebounds. McCarville was a center with a guard’s passing ability. She is in the top 10 in assists in Gophers history, and with the Lynx her steal and between-the-legs bounce pass to Rebekkah Brunson in the series-clinching win in the 2013 WNBA finals was one of the season highlights.
With the Lynx she averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds as the Lynx won the 2013 title. Last season she averaged 7.9 points and 4.8 rebounds.
McCarville missed the 2011 WNBA after a dispute with New York, her team at the time, and also sat out the 2012 season.
Her return via trade before the 2013 season was heralded as a homecoming for McCarville, reuniting her with Whalen.
“Those two were the face of the program,” said Brenda Frese, who coached the Gophers for one season before leaving for Maryland and being replaced by Borton. “They became the role models for every girl’s basketball dreams in Minnesota.”
The Lynx did, however, have Jones on their radar before getting McCarville’s news. A former University of Connecticut star, Jones was a teammate of Whalen’s on the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. Reeve said Whalen gave Jones a ringing endorsement. McCarville’s decision prompted the Lynx to acquire Jones for a second-round pick.
As a purely procedural move the Lynx will put McCarville on a season suspension, which will free up her salary against the salary cap, making it possible to sign Jones.
“Asjha is one of the all-time best in our league of being on the low block or just off the block, and her ability to score,” Reeve said of the 6-3 Jones. A two-time WNBA all-star, Jones has averaged 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in 11 seasons.
“Her IQ is so high for the game, she has the ability to make right plays, whether passing, screening, all the little things,” Reeve said. “The game slows down for her.”
Like McCarville and Taj McWilliams-Franklin before her, Jones will be asked to complement a high-powered Lynx starting lineup that includes Brunson, Whalen, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus.
Jones will be pushed in camp, with Amber Harris, Damiris Dantas and rookie Reshanda Gray all competing for time in the post.
But McCarville will be missed.
“She was probably one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around,” said Kelly Roysland, a former Gopher who is now the women’s basketball coach at Macalester.
“When you think of women’s basketball in Minnesota, you think of Lindsay and Janel.”
• The Lynx announced the signing of guard Darxia Morris, who will take the roster spot of guard Anna Cruz. Cruz, acquired in a draft-day trade, has a commitment with the Spanish national team that will delay her arrival in Minnesota until early July.
• Rachel Jarry, expected to be in camp after missing last season, will not play this summer because of injury.