Less than two weeks after the conclusion of the 2021 WNBA season, a few Minnesota Lynx players have already made the trip overseas to sharpen their skills during the W’s offseason.
While several WNBA teams may normally half or more of their rosters playing overseas over the winter, the Lynx are sending three players for this season.
Key players Napheesa Collier, Aerial Powers and Layshia Clarendon all are rehabbing injuries before returning to any basketball-related activities. Sylvia Fowles’ future with the franchise is currently unclear, but it is expected that if she does return for her 15th WNBA season, it will be as a Lynx. Rachel Banham will be sticking around the area is working as the Director of Skill Development for the River Falls Wildcat Girls Basketball program with first through eighth graders this winter.
As for the rest of the Lynx outside of their overseas players, Cheryl Reeve noted there will be a heavy focus on skill development for her entire team over the offseason to ensure they don’t come into next season the way they came into the 2021 season.
Moving forward, I’ll provide weekly updates on the three Lynx playing abroad: Kayla McBride, Bridget Carleton and Jess Shepard.
Fenerbahçe — EuroLeague — Istanbul, Turkey
McBride suited up for EuroLeague powerhouse Fenerbahçe on October 6 — just 10 days after the Lynx loss against the Chicago Sky in the second round of the WNBA playoffs — and picked up right where she left off in the EuroLeague playoffs last season.
The international star doesn’t discriminate with her bucket-giving. Whether the net is in Minneapolis, Turkey, or somewhere in between, K-Mac will quickly introduce the ball to the bottom of it. The Erie, PA racked up 21 points on 6/9 shooting, including 3/5 3PT and 6/6 FT, to go with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 32:42 of action in a 20-point Fenerbahçe victory over Galatasaray.
The Notre Dame alumna is not alone in Istanbul, either. She played alongside Dallas Wings star Satou Sabally, Kiah Stokes of the Las Vegas Aces, and Bria Hartley of the Phoenix Mercury last season (all of whom are still rostered but not yet playing), in addition to Minnesota alumna and Los Angeles Sparks center Amanda Zahui B, and Atlanta Dream center Elizabeth Williams, who are playing already this season.
After falling in the EuroLeague semifinals last season to the eventual champion UMMC Ekaterinburg (whose roster this year is hilariously dominant), McBride is ready to lead Fenerbahçe to another deep playoff run in 2021-22.
McBride plays again this morning at 11 AM CT versus Landes and on Saturday at 5 AM CT versus Çankaya Üni.
A.S. Ramat HaSharon — Israeli D1/EuroBasket — Ramat HaSharon, Israel
Carleton has arrived in Ramat HaSharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, but the team’s season does not tip off until next Monday, October 18.
The Chatham, ON native and former All-American at Iowa State will take the floor alongside two other WNBA players. Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young and Washington Mystics guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough will join Carleton in Israel this season.
Much like she was with the Canadian National Team during the Tokyo Olympics, Carleton will be empowered to be more of an offensive engine than role player, which will bode well for her ever-expanding offensive game and hopefully give her added confidence on that end heading into the 2022 WNBA season.
While she may be yet to play a game, Carleton is already reaping the benefits of the her decision to play in Israel.
Not to be dramatic but the hummus in Israel has changed my life— Bridget Carleton (@bridgecarleton) October 9, 2021
I’m not the biggest hummus guy in the world (*ducks*), but that’s a conversation for a later day (sorry).
Dinamo Sassari — Italy Serie A1/EuroCup — Sassari, Italy (Sardinia)
There’s having a day, and then there’s doing what Shepard did in her Sassari debut. The Lynx rotational forward had 34 (!!) points on 12/28 shooting (10/14 FT) to go along with a ridiculous 22 rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 97-72 loss to Fila San Martino di Lupari on Sunday.
Shepard primarily earned her minutes as an entry passer, energizer bunny on the glass, and solid defender, so seeing her offense game blossom was great to see.
It was evident how tirelessly the Notre Dame alumna worked on her offensive game after practice with Lynx assistant and five-time WNBA champion Rebekkah Brunson, which makes her dominant scoring night that much sweeter. Her hard work is paying off, and I can’t wait to see more from Shepard as her season progresses.
Shepard and Sassari play twice more this week: on Thursday at 12:30 PM CT at Elfic Fribourg and on Sunday at 11 AM versus USE Rosa Empoli.