MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Most rookies on the Lynx roster are out to make a name for themselves in Minnesota, but Carlie Wagner is already well known around the state after her time as a star guard for the Gophers.
She burned up The Barn as one of the top scorers at the University of Minnesota, and now is working hard both on the court and off to get her professional career started close to home.
“It’s been really ‘real,'” Wagner said of her first week and a half of Lynx training camp. “I learned quickly that you have to stay focused on the court and not let the excitement get to you.”
First-year players are often looking for veterans to look up to, and Wagner’s mentor is one she has been around her for quite some time: former Gopher and four-time WNBA Champion Lindsay Whalen.
Wagner says playing alongside fellow Gopher Lindsay Whalen is certainly surreal, yet special at the same time.
“She’s the first one to come pat you on the back, and if you do something bad she’s the first one to tell you how to fix it,” Wagner said. “It is really cool, especially for a rookie, to have one of the best players in the WNBA come up to you to help you out that quickly.”
Whalen is also recognizing Wagner’s effort on the floor after only one week together at Mayo Clinic Square.
“Players like her, you really don’t have to worry about expectations because she works so hard in the gym,” Whalen said. “It’s been fun to see her over the last couple of weeks."
There is a strong bond and also some tough love on the floor while playing for Head Coach Cheryl Reeve.
Wagner's been challenged since camp began, but it’s all part of the process of learning from a coach who expects the best out of everyone.
“That’s the attitude you have to have when you’re trying to win a championship down the road, and you want to win games, you have to be hard,” Wagner said. “I think the biggest thing is [learning] attention to detail and doing the small things. I think that’s why this team has been so successful.”
With the help of her new team and coaches, Wagner's game game keeps growing and so is her confidence even while playing alongside some of the best players in the league.
“I feel a lot more comfortable taking shots, whereas at first I was like, ‘Just pass the ball, don’t even look at the basket’,” Wagner said. “Now I think it has slowed down for me a little bit.”
By being on a veteran team with depth at Wagner’s position, it might be hard for her to see much playing time. But whether or not she makes the Lynx final roster, Wagner’s experience with the program is worth it.
“I want to be a better basketball player leaving than I was coming in and I think I am getting that here,” Wagner said. “I don’t want to stay the same. I don’t want to be the same player I was in college. I want to be able to get better and evolve.”