by Jim Hanggi
As the Lynx practice comes to a close, Helen Darling takes more than 200 shots after most of her teammates have taken off to go about their day. Darling shouts in frustration after a shot clangs off the rim. But she drills the next five jumpers, hitting nothing but net. Darling continues to make adjustments in her shot, looking for the perfect form. It has been a microcosm of her time here in Minnesota: making adjustments after coming to the Lynx from Cleveland in the dispersal draft.
Darling began the season as a reserve for the Lynx, coming off the bench in 11 of the team's first 12 games (she did not play May 30 vs. New York). "It has been tough," Darling said of the transition from being a starter in Cleveland. "When you're a starter, then become a backup point guard, it's hard. But I'm using the experience to get better."
Of course, it doesn't hurt as much to be on the bench when you're behind one of the greatest point guards in women's basketball history, Teresa Edwards. "You learn a lot just sitting on the bench," Darling said. "Sometimes she does something so amazing and you ask her how she does it. She just says it is just natural, and I wish I had that natural ability. Just watching her, you see the little things she does. I use practice to watch her and go against her to get better."
Lynx coach Suzie McConnell Serio adjusted the lineup for Minnesota's game vs. Los Angeles on June 27, starting Darling alongside Teresa Edwards. After playing just 11.6 minutes per game in her first 10 outings of the season, she has averaged 29.3 minutes in the last four games, including a career-high 38 minutes in the overtime win against Houston on June 30.
In Saturday's comeback win over the defending WNBA champion Detroit Shock, Darling scored a season-high 11 points with a career-high nine assists, equaling the second-highest single-game total in franchise history. She has dealt six assists in two other games, raising her season average to 2.4 assists per contest to go along with 3.0 points per game.
Another adjustment Darling has had to make this season deals with her off-the-court life. Darling is the proud mother of triplets just over two years old: sons, Ja-Juan and Jalen, and daughter, Navaeh. However, they are over 800 miles away in Ohio.
"In Cleveland I was only two hours away so I got to see them a lot, but here I miss a lot," she said. "Calling home and hearing them laugh and learn new words in the background makes things harder. They're at the stage where they are learning so much and I'm missing all of that."
Even though there have been many obstacles to overcome, Darling is having a great time in Minnesota. "My teammates are great, and the support from my family is always there," she concludes.
Darling photo gallery
Helen answers your questions
Darling's WNBA.com playerfile
Jan. 6, 2004: Lynx select Helen Darling in dispersal draft
2004 Lynx features archive