ST. PAUL — Crystal Dangerfield struggled through the first half of the Lynx’s game Saturday, Aug. 1, against Connecticut in Bradenton, Fla. Through one half, the rookie point guard was 1 for 6 shooting from the field, including an air ball.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talked to Dangerfield at halftime, telling her “not to sweat it.”
“I know the air balls don’t feel very good, but she’s a far better shooter than what she was shooting,” Reeve said. “If it was the right basketball play, and (when) she’s open, she needs to shoot it. … She took that to heart and was resilient for us.”
Dangerfield scored 13 points, making three three-pointers, in the second half to lead Minnesota to a come-from-behind victory. It’s rare to see that out of a rookie.
“Not this rookie,” Reeve said.
Not Napheesa Collier last year, either. Maybe there is something different about the players that come out of Connecticut, after all.
“The way (Huskies coach Geno Auriemma) coaches them and prepares them, this is when it shows. And Geno also recruits a certain kind of player. … They’re tough, they’re relentless and they’re not quitting. They’re coachable, and they listen,” Reeve said. “I think those things helped her.”
Dangerfield wasn’t supposed to have this kind of role early this season for Minnesota. The Lynx drafted the point guard in the second round. While that had more to do with the team knowing its need for a post player in Round 1, and that it was possible Dangerfield would still be there by the time the 16th pick rolled around, Reeve still didn’t anticipate her cracking the rotation right away. She wasn’t overly familiar with the pick-and-roll offense and still had to adjust to the pro game.
Then Lexie Brown suffered a concussion, and Shenise Johnson injured her hamstring. Odyssey Sims still isn’t with the team.
Suddenly, Dangerfield cracked the starting lineup just a few games into the season, and she played 37 minutes Saturday.
“It’s different. It’s not what I thought it was going to be at first,” she said. “But things happen and you have to adjust on the fly. It’s (trial) by fire at this point. It’s going out and adjusting to what the game plan is for that team, coming back to practice, seeing what I did wrong and trying to come out and be better the next time I’m on the floor.”
That’s the attitude you need in Dangerfield’s spot. Reeve noted there are “so many” things Dangerfield doesn’t know yet, “and she’s got to hear it in the middle of a possession.” Because of the position Dangerfield plays, Reeve has had to be even harder on the guard than she was on Collier a year ago, and the coach doesn’t figure to let up anytime soon.
“Now being in game situations, people are going to start scheming for her, so she’s going to have to learn, ‘OK, this is what your reads are,’ ” Reeve said. “It’s like a quarterback, here are your checks. But then also now when something different is being thrown at you, it’s not just your basic checks. So we’re on her pretty hard, we’re coaching her pretty hard, because the faster she gets it, the more ability we have to navigate through losing some of these guards.”
In some ways, Dangerfield is much like Collier with her steady approach to the game. There have been mistakes, largely because she is learning. But there hasn’t been fear.
“Understanding that some things are just going to be trial and error until you figure it out,” Dangerfield said. “Just learning, coming in every day, things aren’t going to be perfect. But as long as you just get better, it’s like one percent better each day, I think that’s what I can focus on right now. If there’s one thing I can focus on to be better at each day, that’s what I’m going to do.”
As for the coaching, Reeve said Dangerfield is accepting all of the criticism.
“So I’m appreciative of the background,” Reeve said. “Crystal comes from a great family that I’m sure there’s been accountability there, because you can see how she handles being held accountable and she wants more and wants to be great.”