Lindsey Harding Hoping to Set the Tone in Minnesota

Minnesota rookie Lindsey Harding has already faced a fair amount of adversity in her basketball career. After leading her Duke Blue Devils to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, Harding missed two free throws at the end of a heartbreaking one-point loss to Rutgers. Then, minutes after becoming the top pick in the 2007 draft, she was traded by the Phoenix Mercury to the Lynx. Immediately thrust into a starting role with Minnesota, Harding has struggled a bit, going 1-12 and 3-12 from the field in two of Minnesota's four losses. She did score a career-high 16 points in Friday night's loss to the Sky.

Still, there is reason to be positive. Harding trained and played well with the U.S. National Team in Italy earlier this spring, and experts say that she and Lynx teammate Seimone Augustus will be a duo to be reckoned with in the WNBA for years to come. Harding spoke recently with about her hoops history and her hopes for the 2007 season.

Q. As the newest big name on the scene, can you tell us a little about yourself? Let's start with when you first started playing?
"I first took up the game when I was in seventh grade. I had been running track before then because that was my sport. I wasn't supposed to play basketball. But a coach talked me into it. I didn't love it right away, but after awhile, it kind of grew on me."

Q. Did you ever picture yourself being where you are now? As the first overall pick in a WNBA Draft and a starting point guard alongside the best in the world?
"Growing up, my goal was to go to college and play. The one thing that made me want to play basketball was watching the Comets play that first season. Being from Houston, my dad got season tickets and I went to the games, saw the atmosphere, the environment and these strong, powerful women on the floor. I wanted to be them. I knew college was the next step before the WNBA. At 13 years old, I didn't think about (this level)."

Q. How does a premiere athlete turn the negatives that you experience into positives for the rest of your career?
"I don't want to say I dwell on losses because it's part of basketball. As an athlete, you have to be able to handle both sides of the picture. When things become harder, then it becomes a tougher test. I knew it would be hard, but I hurt most for my team. It won't define me. It was one little hiccup in my career and it wasn't a big deal. But you have to learn from losses. I only had like 12 or 13 losses at Duke and I learned from each one of them. That last one had nothing to do with basketball."

Q. You mean the missed free throws in your 2007 NCAA Tournament loss? Your last collegiate game at Duke?
"Yeah, at the end of the game, my team came to me and picked me up off the floor and hugged me. I realized that being a successful player and person has nothing to do with basketball. I just impacted the lives of 12 people, but they came to me to comfort me to be OK. Other teammates took blame for things that they thought they did wrong, missed layups or turnovers. Not once did they ever talk about free throws. But the ability to positively impact the lives of people is what I learned most after that last game."

Q. How did you learn those values?
"It has to do a lot with your family, parents, experiences, but you have to look at things. I had a coach in (former Duke) Coach (Gail) Goestenkors who has not won a national championship, but she is one of the best coaches in the country. (She had a) 100% graduation rate."

Q. Do you ever think about where you'd be without the game of basketball in your life?
"Basketball is my outlet for things. If I'm having a bad day, if I'm upset, once I'm out on the floor, it's all OK. That's my escape. Not just basketball, but sports in general are part of who I am. Some people are doctors and dreamed about that and worked for it, but I have always been athletic, so I've pushed for that."

Q. How do you get respect as a rookie in the WNBA and who do you respect?
"I respect every single player on the court that I play with. That's one thing you learn through the years because if you don't respect a player, they can come out and get you. Coming into a training camp or playing with USA Basketball veterans, you earn respect by working hard and offering whatever you can to the team that they need or don't already have. What can I do to help? As a point guard, I set the tone offensive and defensively."

Q. What are your goals for the Lynx this season?
"My goal this year is to help take the Lynx further than they have been. I want to do things that people don't think we can do."