by Dan Bell
Nicole Ohlde hasn't had time to slowly get acclimated to the WNBA. Instead, she's been put to the test from the beginning — inserted into the Lynx' starting lineup from day one.
"Nicole Ohlde is being thrown into the fire immediately," said Lynx head coach Suzie McConnell Serio. "If she has the type of professional career that I foresee her having, I think it's important for us to go with her as our starting center and give her the confidence in being with our starting lineup — giving her the minutes. She's done a great job — and she's earned it. She's legit. It's not something we've given her, she's earned it."
Ohlde's professional career got off to a great start as she recorded a double-double in her WNBA debut with 16 points — shooting 7-for-10 from the field — and 10 rebounds. She backed that up with eight points and six rebounds in her second game and 14 points and nine rebounds in her third game.
But it was in that third game — a 56-44 loss to the San Antonio Silver Stars — that Ohlde experienced some of the struggles that all rookies go through. Facing San Antonio's 7-2 Margo Dydek for the first time, Ohlde had her shot blocked six times.
"Tonight was a lesson learned for Nicole Ohlde," McConnell Serio said after the game. "We have players on this team who have faced Dydek before and know that you can't really hope to shoot over her."
But these learning experiences will help make Ohlde a better player. She scored a season-high 19 points with a team-high seven rebounds in Sunday's loss to Los Angeles; she had posted her second double-double of the year in the first matchup against the Sparks, 12 points and 10 boards. Ohlde blocked four shots May 30 vs. New York, one shy of a team record.
The 6-5 forward/center ranks first among rookies in rebounding (6.1 rebounds per game), blocks (1.23) and free throws made (39), second in scoring (10.7), and third in minutes (29.4) and field goal percentage (.446). She is listed third in the entire WNBA in offensive rebounds (3.1) and 11th in blocks.
Ohlde has already shown that she can play in the WNBA, and her teammates have high expectations for her. "She's smooth," Lynx guard Katie Smith said. "She rebounds the ball well, runs the floor real well, and has nice post moves. Defensively, she's a presence down low and can block some shots. I think she's going to gradually improve as the season goes along. She's going to be a good one."
Ohlde photo gallery
Ohlde's WNBA.com playerfile
Ohlde answers your questions
Get to know Nicole Ohlde
April 17, 2004: Lynx select Ohlde with sixth overall pick
2004 Lynx features archive