McCarville, Whalen Hoping To Pick Up Where They Left Off
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There are differences these days for Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville. The two no longer wear the maroon and gold at Williams Arena. They’ve traded in Dinkytown for downtown, and they certainly have more experience and basketball mileage on their odometers.
It’s no longer 2004, and they’re no longer chasing Final Fours together.
But it sure is hard to tell when you see them in action.
Since McCarville arrived in Minnesota by way of a three-team trade on March 1, the duo—which comprises the most iconic and successful 1-2 punch in University of Minnesota women’s basketball history—have been at work. They’ve run through plays, put their own wrinkles on the nuances of coach Cheryl Reeve’s offense, tacked on conditioning and shooting drills and taken notes on how to improve prior to the Lynx opening Training Camp in early May.
With a little over a week to go before the rest of the team returns, McCarville and Whalen are spending their time working closely with Reeve, assistant Shelley Patterson, forward Devereaux Peters and a collection of the Lynx’s male practice squad testing the chemistry on their pick-and-rolls, high screens and both players’ court vision and awareness that made them so dangerous together a decade ago.
“It’s home away from home,” McCarville said.
It feels that way for all parties involved.
In the time since their Gopher days, McCarville and Whalen stayed in touch where they could via texting or meeting up after head-to-head matchups. Sharing Xs and Os on the court hasn’t been an option since Whalen graduated after the Gophers’ 2004 season. That’s a long time by basketball standards, yet the way they play and mesh together hasn’t altered to the point of feeling uncomfortable or out of place. Yes, both players have changed and evolved since then—according to Reeve, both are better—but that doesn’t take away that core chemistry they once shared and hope to successfully share again on the Target Center court.
Whalen said she’s noticed McCarville has added consistency in her outside shot as well as an effective pick-and-pop element to her game to go along with the passing ability from the elbow and low-post sealing presence she’s always had.
Getting a chance to reconnect prior to Training Camp is an added bonus.
“You just kind of pick it up,” Whalen said. “It just kind of comes back. You’re just playing basketball—you just come out here and play and make reads and do all that kind of stuff.”
It sounds easy enough, but Reeve admitted she can’t pinpoint a scenario in which a duo that led a team to the Final Four reunited nearly 10 years later on a WNBA team primed and ready for a third straight Finals run.
But she admits it’s fun to see this one taking shape.
“To see them work together, it’s a really unique thing and it’s a really special thing. They’re both so talented, and they both understand how to play. If you put the two together, you really get a special chemistry with each other.”
It’s not just the connection that Whalen and McCarville share that gets Reeve excited about the Lynx’s offseason acquisition. McCarville is showcasing her physical nature around the basket that the organization hopes will help Minnesota move on after losing veteran Taj McWilliams-Franklin this offseason. McCarville has a powerful presence in the paint that can cause issues around the hoop for opposing defenses.
Reeve has praised Whalen for years because of her propensity for handling contact, often calling her a hockey player on the court. Now, she’s learning that McCarville has that physical nature first hand.
“We already knew Whalen likes that, and now you add Janel. Three-point plays the old-fashioned way is something Janel gives you,” Reeve said. “I try to foul the heck out of her down there, and she just powers right through me. I go home all bruised up. She doesn’t feel anything and just scores the bucket.”
That, combined with her vision for the game, gets Reeve excited for McCarville’s arrival.
“I’ll show her a concept, like we like to do this, and she puts her own unique flair on it and I thought, ‘Well, that looks pretty good, too. I wasn’t thinking that, but it’s really cool,’” Reeve said. “Janel, she’s extremely gifted in terms of her positioning, being in the right place at the right time.”
For McCarville, being on this Lynx roster is getting her more than ready to get rolling at Training Camp. That, and a familiar face with whom she once shared one of the most memorable moments in her basketball career.
Now, it’s time for McCarville and Whalen to try and tap into that magic again.
“It just kind of fell into place, from the moment I walked in and hugged to now,” McCarville said. “She’s dropping between the legs passes to me, and behind the backs. I’m hitting her with good wraparound passes. Just kind of everything is falling back into place. It’s been a little bit of a hiatus between each other, but I don’t think it’s stopped us one bit. Hopefully I can build the same chemistry and style of play with everyone else on the team, too.”
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