Picture it. October 20th, 2016. Target Center. 2016 WNBA Finals Game 5. Lindsay Whalen leapt up and steals an inbounds pass away from Kristi Toliver, dashes up the court and lays in an acrobatic layup over a charging Candace Parker. Game tied. Target Center is shaking, and my ears are ringing from the screams of Minnesota Lynx fans wildly cheering on the home team. That is the sports memory I will never forget. Despite that Lynx going on to lose that game and 2016 title, for some reason the echoing and deafening screams are what stick out in my memory.
As a ten-year season ticket holder for the Minnesota Lynx, 15 plus year fan of the WNBA and Women’s college basketball and a lifelong fan of Girl’s High School basketball, I have seen my fair share of games. From buzzer beaters to blowouts and everything in between. I’ve had the pleasure to see some of the best names in Minnesota Girl’s High School basketball, Gopher Women’s basketball and the WNBA put on a show.
As the type of fan who wants to know the ins and outs of every aspect of a game, I must continually evolve and change the way I view the game. At times I’m still a heated fan who will have a boisterous disagreement with an official’s call and on the other hand, I can find myself completely silent, sitting back in amazement at some of the athletes I am watching. Catch me at a Gopher Women’s basketball game, and it’s about a 50/50 chance of which one you will see.
Having been a fan and student of the game for as long as I have, I am confident in my knowledge of the game. I usually can spot a push-off, charge or missed passing opportunity with relative ease. I feel I can speak on and write up a review of a game and come off as basketball savvy fan or an unbiased critique.
One of the better parts in my history with the sport is witnessing the improvement of players. I love being able to go out and see up and coming kids and watching them develop into well rounded players. It’s even better to watch them develop into college level players that we can continue to cheer on for another four years. It was amazing to watch High School stars Like Carlie Wagner and Rachel Banham dominating in the Minnesota State High School Girl’s Tournament and then marveling at them becoming unstoppable forces in the NCAA and Big Ten Women’s basketball.
Although I would say I’m a knowledgeable fan or observer, the one thing I know is that basketball at any level is always changing. Guards are getting taller and faster. Post players are now perimeter threats with smooth looking jump shots. There’re 6’1 guards who are running the offense on one side and then sliding into the paint to defend forwards and centers with ease on the other side. Position-less basketball has become one of those cliché phrases used similarly in sports like “culture” or “system”. Shooters are now launching 3-pointers from a step or two in from half-court. Not only launching but hitting them with consistent success. That’s a change from when you would see a girl tip-toe just inches behind the 3-point line back in early to mid-2000s.
The aspect I look forward to continuing to improve and build upon as I continue to write on Minnesota Girl’s High School Basketball, is to appreciate the little things that make up a game. Learn to watch and track out of bounds plays and who scores off them. How a coach can use their star player like a Paige Bueckers or Adalia McKenzie as a decoy to throw off a defense and score an easy basket. I want to learn to give more credit to those scrappy kids who are diving on every loose ball and saving possessions for her team. Those type of things add up. I’m excited to be able to cover players as freshman and sophomores and having a keen eye to see what they have added or developed in their game every year.
UConn coach and basketball legend, Geno Auriemma, has the quote “We don’t play to a score, we play to a standard.” I want that to be how I view every article I write and every game I attend. In a blowout, who is still playing hard like the game is on the line. What does every kid who steps on that court offer to her team. In doing so, I will continue to learn while enjoying the magic that is Minnesota High School Girls Basketball.