by Jim Hanggi
Many WNBA experts claimed the 2004 Draft was the deepest and most talented since the inception of the league in 1997. Most of the draft attention went to Diana Taurasi and Alana Beard, who were drafted first and second overall. With the sixth pick, the Lynx selected Nicole Ohlde, a 6-5 forward/center from Kansas State. Ohlde has provided the Lynx with a player who can play solid defense around the basket and also cause havoc in the paint on the offensive end.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Ohlde ranks third among rookies in scoring (11.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (5.7 rpg). She ranks sixth in the WNBA in blocks (1.35 bpg). After just 20 games, Ohlde became the Lynx' single-season blocks leader with her 30th of the season; that total is now 42. She also has three point/rebound double-doubles.
Still, Ohlde faces an uphill battle to win Rookie of the Year honors because of Taurasi's strong season. But Ohlde feels she doesn't have anything to prove. "I just look at it as an opportunity to step on the court and play basketball," Ohlde said. "I got lucky coming here, and I have enjoyed every minute of it."
Watching Ohlde play, one easily notices her passion for the game and her desire to improve. When Teresa Edwards, a five-time Olympian, was recently asked which Lynx player she thought may be a future Olympian, she immediately responded, "Nicole Ohlde."
Ohlde has shown steady improvement throughout her rookie season and is now becoming a focal point of the franchise. She realizes she can take her game to a higher level. "I have learned a lot and continue to learn every time I step onto the court," Ohlde said. "I still need to get a little bit stronger and work on my outside shot."
The Lynx are going to need Ohlde down the stretch if they are to advance to the playoffs for the second straight season. Ohlde is confident the team can finish strong. "We just need to come out and play the way we are capable of," Ohlde said. "The August break has been good for us — we are just going to have to come out and play our game."
Ohlde photo gallery
July 7: Ohlde named Big 12 Athlete of the Year
Ohlde answers your questions (July 2004)
Feature story: Top-Notch Rookie (June 2004)
Get to know Nicole Ohlde (April 2004)
April 17: Lynx select Ohlde with sixth overall pick
Ohlde's WNBA.com playerfile