Taj Breaks WNBA Offensive Rebounding Record

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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There’s a secret to Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s routine during gameday shootarounds. While her teammates go through drill after drill, lofting shots from different areas of the floor, McWilliams-Franklin is hauling down rebounds—attentively watching and getting a feel for how the shots are falling, where they might land and where she should be.

At 41, McWilliams-Franklin is not the quickest or most agile player on the floor each night. And if you ask her, she’ll say she’s never been the most athletic player during her 14-year career. But she’s always been a student of the game, learning minute-by-minute how to put herself in the best position to be successful and help her team win.

On Tuesday, McWilliams-Franklin became the all-time leading offensive rebounder in WNBA history. Her 1,052 offensive boards surpassed Yolanda Griffith’s 1,049—the record-breaker coming on a put-back basket with 1:45 to play in the second quarter of Minnesota’s 96-84 win over San Antonio at Target Center.

The record is proof of Mama Taj’s meticulous work ethic, something she showcases for her teammates and coaches day in and day out.

“One of the most intelligent players I’ve ever been around if not the most intelligent player,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “She studies players’ tendencies. Her own teammates, she knows when they’re going to shoot. She’s smart. She goes into every game ready to play.”

There’s an art to offensive rebounding. Look at any player’s stats sheet and you’ll find far more defensive boards than those that come on the offensive end. To snag offensive rebounds a player needs to fight through the defender’s prime position under the hoop, often needing to break through box outs or multiple bodies to get near the rim.

With McWilliams-Franklin, the secret ingredient is knowledge. She takes what she learns in shootarounds, practices and video session and applies it to her game. She’s got timing on her side—she gets in position, hops at the right time and often tips the ball to herself before making a move to the basket.

“I know Candice Wiggins, where her shots are going to go,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore. If I’m not passing to them and I’m underneath the rim, I can pretty much estimate where their shots are going to fall. That helps a lot, just watching your teammates shoot in practice and rebounding for them in practice so you know what it looks like out in the game.”

On Tuesday against a Silver Stars team that won 13-of-14 coming in, offensive rebounds were crucial. McWilliams-Franklin, Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore all snagged five offensive boards—19 of the team’s 52 rebounds came on the offensive end—and Mama Taj made good on most of those rebound attempts. She finished 9-of-14 from the floor with 19 points, tying Augustus for the team lead.

McWilliams-Franklin set the WNBA’s all-time offensive rebound mark on the same night Brunson set the Lynx’s franchise record with 20 rebounds. Brunson, one of the league’s fiercest front-court competitors, said she learns from Mama Taj every day. There’s no shortage of knowledge changing hands in the Lynx front court.

“She’s just amazing—there aren’t too many words you can say,” Brunson said. “She’s a professional. She does it day in and day out.”

Center Jess Adair perhaps put it best: “If you’re on this team and you don’t take something away from Taj, you’re a fool.”

Shortly after McWilliams-Franklin set the offensive rebounding record, her basket giving Minnesota a 31-30 lead, she received a thunderous ovation from the Target Center crowd and an acknowledgement of her achievement on the big screen.

But it wasn’t just the fans. The Lynx, in the midst of a crucial game against a Western Conference rival, took a brief moment to appreciate the magnitude of a league record falling before their eyes.

It’s the type of moment all players hope to experience, Adair said, and to see a teammate achieve such heights makes it that much more special.

“It was one of those moments where the game stopped for 0.5 seconds and we gave her congratulations,” Adair said.

McWilliams-Franklin said she’s honored to hold the award for now knowing someday someone will pass her on the charts. Her guess is Brunson, Tina Charles or Sylvia Fowles, three players who make a living attacking the boards on both ends of the court.

When that happens, Mama Taj said she’ll gladly move down the line. She’s just thankful she had the opportunity to pull down that record-breaking rebound on Tuesday, securing her spot in the record books for the foreseeable future.

Not only that, but her boards played a key role in a pivotal win.

“For right now I’m glad that I’m here, able to continue playing, able to be someone that the Minnesota Lynx can depend on to give them the rebounding edge,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “Me and Rebekkah, and more than proud that we actually won the game and we’re moving to where we’re supposed to be to position ourselves for the playoffs.”

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