MINNEAPOLIS - As the head coach and general manager with the Minnesota Lynx, Cheryl Reeve had the difficult task Friday night of matching needs and getting the best players available to her in the WNBA Draft.
To make matters more complicated, she and everybody else involved in the draft were doing their work remotely, confined to her home due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The NFL Draft will follow suit this weekend. But after drafting Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Crystal Dangerfield and trading for Erica Ogwumike, Reeve felt the night was a success.
With the No. 6 pick in the first round, Reeve surprised many in the WNBA world by drafting South Carolina forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan. Most projections didn’t have her as high as No. 6, but she was one of the top forwards on Reeve’s board. She’ll join the Lynx front court alongside Sylvia Fowles.
“After we picked her I got a number of messages from people saying how much they loved her. She just wasn’t talked about much among mock drafts. She was somebody that at the power forward spot was in the top two for us,” Reeve said.
Harrigan started all 31 games for the Gamecocks last season, averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. She’s one of three South Carolina players to get at least 1,000 career points and 200 career blocks.
She helped lead South Carolina to an NCAA title, a pair of SEC regular season titles and three SEC Tournament titles. She also helped lead the Gamecocks to the 2019 Sweet 16 and 2018 Elite Eight.
Harrigan admitted she wasn’t expecting to hear her name at No. 6. Making the night even more special for her, teammate and close friend Tyasha Harris was drafted right behind her to the Dallas Wings.
“It means a lot. Dreamed of it since I was a little kid so it really means a lot. It was great seeing Ty get her name called after me. It’s something we worked really hard for, just being a dream for us as children growing up and just to be able to accomplish that is a great feeling,” Harrigan said.
She can shoot from the perimeter and is known for her defense. Her biggest challenge at the next level is to improve her rebounding numbers.
The Lynx are hoping that once the 2020 season starts, they see a lot of “Mad Kiki” wearing a Minnesota jersey.
“I got that nickname from my fans. It just pretty much comes from a competitive spirit. I’m just aggressive on the court. Just kind of taking pride in my defense,” Harrigan said.
Reever turned her attention to the Lynx backcourt in the second round. She selected Dangerfield, who will be reunited with former UConn star Napheesa Collier.
Dangerfield averaged 14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game last season for the Huskies. She scored in double figures in 24 of UConn’s 30 games. Reeve was surprised to see her still available with the fourth pick in the second round.
She’s the lone true point guard now on the roster, with Odyssey Sims’ status for 2020 uncertain. Sims is suspended for the first two games after an arrest for DUI last summer, and reports emerged in late January she’s unlikely to play in the WNBA this season.
Reeve said before the draft it’s unlikely a rookie will be the starting point guard for the Lynx this season. Dangerfield will get her opportunity for playing time.
“I like the way she competes, I like the way she defends. She can shoot the 3. It’s not going to be over-said how much all of enjoy players that played at UConn. They are plug and play players. She’s going to know what we want. She’s the only true point guard on the roster. Just make the darn team, that’s the first step. The minutes part takes care of itself,” Reeve said.
Reeve wasn’t done, trading Stephanie Talbot to the New York Liberty for Erica Ogwumike. That name should sound familiar, as her two sisters play for the Lynx’s biggest rival, the L.A. Sparks.
“Anybody who follows the WNBA knows the bloodlines of the Ogwumike family. The characteristics, the qualities of an Ogwumike are incredibly appealing, period,” Reeve said.
Reeve says she feels following the draft the Lynx is a more balanced roster with better perimeter shooting, coming off an 18-16 seaon. Now, they wait for the all clear from the WNBA to work with their players. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are no answers on when that will be.