Kayla McBride, Jessica Shepard and Bridget Carleton were all able to travel back to their respective hometowns with most European leagues on break last week and get some much-needed family time.
It is seldom talked about how much of a grind it is for WNBA players also play overseas during the W offseason. To get an idea of what it is like, McBride landed in Minneapolis from Turkey less than 72 hours before the tip of the 2021 WNBA season (and played in the season opener!); on the back end, she had only 10 days to mentally, emotionally and physically recover from a tough playoff loss before she was due back in Turkey with Fenerbahçe.
“This is how a year in my life (and most professional women’s basketball player looks like: WNBA season from April to October; 7 to 10 days at home; overseas commitments from October to April; then back to the WNBA almost immediately (don’t forget to add in a couple weeks of national team commitments somewhere in there),” Carleton wrote in a piece for Gameday London last week.
In a 12-months-per-year grind that professional basketball is for these incredible athletes, it must’ve been great to have a break during which they could see their families ahead of the holidays.
(Note: For a look at each player’s individual game log and per game averages, click here.)
Fenerbahçe — EuroLeague/Turkish League — Istanbul, Turkey
Erie, Pennsylvania’s finest returned to her hometown to spend time with her family during the EuroLeague break.
In the week prior, she played three times and saved her best performance for the biggest of the three games.
Game 1 - 74-56 win vs Galatasaray (Turkish League)
McBride wasn’t quite as efficient as usually from the field in this one, but she played a well-rounded game by adding five rebounds, five assists and only one turnover to a 10-point scoring night on 2-of-6 shooting from 2 and 2-of-5 from downtown.
Game 2 - 64-60 loss vs Famila Schio (EuroLeague)
Much like she did the week earlier, when she dropped 25, six and four after a down game on the McBuckets scale, the Notre Dame legend didn’t stay down for long.
She turned in 27 points on 5/6 from 2, 4/7 from deep and 5/5 on free throws, in 39 minutes of play against the team Fener matches up most closely with in the Group B standings. McBride was diverse in the ways she scored, coming off pin-downs for 3s, using DHOs to get to the basket, and using her shooting gravity to open up and utilize cutting lanes for easy looks inside.
Famila Schio is the top team in Italy’s Serie A1, the league Shepard plays in.
Game 3 - 78-52 win vs Beşiktaş (Turkish League)
In her final game before the break, McBride didn’t have to play much in a rout of 78-52 rout of Turkish League foe Beşiktaş. She played a season-low 20 minutes (partly due to foul trouble), in which she registered seven points, three assists and a rebound.
- 18.0 points on 47.5/100.0/41.3 shooting percentages and 13.6/2.2/7.0 attempts
- 4.2 rebounds
- 3.0 assists, 1.6 turnovers
- 1.2 steals, 0.0 blocks
- 2.4 fouls
- +10.0 (missing +/- from Game 1 this week) in 32.0 minutes
The good news for McBride and Fenerbahçe is that WNBA star Satou Sabally spent the EuroLeague break in Istanbul ramping up for play and should be available as Fener gets going this week. The former No. 2 pick is one of the league’s most exciting and versatile two-way players that should do wonders for collapsing the defense and creating open shots for McBride.
- Saturday, 11/20 - vs Mersin at 7:30 AM CT (Turkish League)
Dinamo Sassari — Italy Serie A1/EuroCup — Sassari, Italy (Sardinia)
This past week, Shepard was back home in Fremont, Nebraska.
Pretty much sums up how my time home was….nothing better than being home. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/sBn6qh0fo0— Jessica Shepard (@JShepard32) November 15, 2021
(Side note: how sweet would it be to have a framed Team USA jersey in your basement?)
But before she headed back to the States, she said “ciao” in the only way she knows how to — getting buckets.
Game 1 - 122-61 loss vs Bourges (EuroCup)
Shepard played for Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame and now plays for Cheryl Reeve with the Lynx, so it’s safe to say she experienced much losing in her time playing basketball, let alone losing by 61 points. In a tough loss, Shepard turned in 16 points on 5/13 FG (6/11 FT), 13 rebounds, one assists and four turnovers.
Game 2 - 81-74 win vs Elfic Fribourgh (EuroCup)
What would you do in your next game after you lose by 61 points? If you’re Jess Shepard, you go for 42 points and 20 rebounds.
Even more impressive, Shepard shot 19/30 from the field, took only five free throws and had one turnover in 40 minutes of play against a Elfic Fribourgh squad Sassari lost to by 19 on October 14. Prettay, prettay, prettay good.
Game 3 - 97-71 loss vs Virtus Bologna (Serie A1)
Shepard closed before the break with a solid 18-point, eight-rebound performance in Serie A1 against the No. 2 team in the league.
After shooting six 3s in a game on October 21, Shepard has taken six 3s in four games since. She has made a renewed effort to get back in the paint by rolling hard off screens, cutting well when the ball is on the weak side, lurking in the dunker spot and crashing the offensive glass.
The only real down side of Shepard’s performance overseas this season has been her turnovers. She has a 0.63 assist-to-turnover ratio with 17 assists and 27 turnovers. Some of that is to be expected with Shepard handling the biggest offensive role she has had probably since high school. However, for someone who is as gifted as a passer as Shepard is — and is receiving as much defensive attention as she is — the turnover rate is high. If she can get that cleaned up, it will be smooth sailing for her in Italy.
On the bright side, Shepard has done a great job of defending without fouling. In 37.5 minutes per game, she is averaging one foul per game. One. That’s essential for a player that needs to stay on the floor for her team to have any chance to stay with opponents offensively, and very encouraging for her prospects of being even more effective in stints next season while Sylvia FowLes is in foul trouble, should Fowles return to Minnesota.
- 25.9 points on 49.7/68.7/17.6 shooting percentages and 21.1/14.6/3.8 attempts
- 14.6 rebounds
- 2.1 assists, 3.4 turnovers
- 0.9 steals, 0.1 blocks
- 1.0 fouls
- -18.6 in 37.5 minutes
- Saturday, 11/20 vs Akronos Moncalieri at 10:30 AM CT (EuroCup)
A.S. Ramat HaSharon — Israeli D1/EuroBasket — Ramat HaSharon, Israel
Game 1 - 87-77 loss (Israeli D1)
Carleton has played just one game in the last two weeks, but it was a very encouraging performance from the Lynx’s two-way ace. She scored a season-high 21 points on 6/8 shooting from inside the arc (including 3/4 FT) and took a career-high 10 3s, which Cheryl Reeve was probably overjoyed to see. Carleton connected on two of them, but considering she’s a 39.5% career shooter from deep, you want her taking that many 3s as her team’s second-leading scorer. She added 10 rebounds, three assists and one turnover in 38 minutes of play.
- 18.0 points on 44.7/83.3/23.1 shooting percentages and 12.7/6.0/4.3 attempts
- 8.7 rebounds
- 2.3 assists, 2.5 turnovers
- 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
- +1.3 in 37.0 minutes
- Thursday, 11/18 - vs Bnot Hertzeliya at 11 AM CT (Israeli D1)
- Monday, 11/22 - vs Maccabi Ashdod at 11 AM CT (Israeli D1)
Carleton had a two-week break and went home to her native Chatham, Ontario, Canada, a city in between Detroit and Toronto.
There really is no place like home.— Bridget Carleton (@bridgecarleton) November 2, 2021
Carleton is right; there’s no place like home, where moms are, well, moms.
After spending time with her family, Carleton joined fellow Canadian Lynx Natalie Achonwa for a Canadian Women’s National Team Camp in Toronto.
Outside of hoops, Carleton, Achonwa and Team Canada visited with young girls at MLSE Launch Pad’s Girls in Real Life program. According to the team, players led a Mad Love workshop during which they discussed what Mad Love means to them and helped their new friends define their own Mad Love stories as part of their #WatchWomenWin campaign.
While Carleton and Achonwa were in Canada, a major talking point was Drake’s reported interest in bringing a WNBA team to Toronto.
“I’ve seen firsthand the effects a pro domestic league can have on youth sports in a country,” she wrote in a piece for Gameday London. “How many more young females would dream big and continue playing basketball if they were able to see what they could do playing the sport right in their own backyard? How much longer would Canadian professionals play if they could stay in Canada and build their networks and prepare for life after basketball in their home country?”
Carleton said she has played six games in Canada since 2015 and just one in her home province on Ontario. There’s no doubt she wants that to change.
“If Drake wants to put his money where his mouth is, I would for him to sponsor a team,” said Achonwa, who is also a huge advocate for bringing a women’s professional league to Canada, during an interview with Sportsnet.
After wrapping up with Team Canada, Achonwa flew here to Minneapolis, where she is working out this week with Lynx teammates Layshia Clarendon, Aerial Powers and Rachel Banham at Mayo Clinic Square.
No better way to spend a Monday. pic.twitter.com/gnJe69B6f2— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) November 16, 2021
It is notable that Clarendon is still wearing a boot as she recovers from the stress reaction in her right foot that sidelined her towards the end of the Lynx season. Clarendon, Powers, and Achonwa all visited with Timberwolves and Lynx minority partner Marc Lore after the Timberwolves/Suns game on Monday night.
So good seeing these three in the building tonight! pic.twitter.com/1une3FkDFM— Marc Lore (@MarcLore) November 16, 2021
While spending time in Minneapolis, Powers — a popular streamer and Chair of Diversity and Inclusion for Team Liquid — visited with T-Wolves Gaming’s BearDaBeast, one of the NBA 2K League’s top players, at T-Wolves Gaming’s studio a floor below the Lynx practice facility at Mayo Clinic Square.
Prior to the Wolves’ loss to the Suns on Monday night, Powers also joined Bally Sports North’s Marney Gellner on Wolves Live.
(Side note: It was Gellner’s first night as the full-time pre and post-game host, a position she now holds after 19 years as Fox Sports North / Bally Sports North’s Timberwolves sideline reporter. Congratulations, Marney!)
Rachel Banham is also taking part in workouts this week. This offseason she is serving as the Director of Skill Development for the River Falls Wildcat Girls Basketball Program.
Recently, she joined fellow homegrown star Adam Thielen and Ryan Englebert on The ETS Podcast, where she talked about her 60-point college game (which tied the NCAA single-game scoring record), her relationship with Kobe Bryant, and much more.
Last, but not least, Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was in her native Miami this week, where she and her legacy were honored with a beautiful mural in celebration with Bleacher Report’s highlight HER and Fowles’ Miami Suns grassroots basketball team.
Syl loves her city,— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) November 14, 2021
and the city loves her right back. pic.twitter.com/rgT8pqI3F8
There will be more to come on this from Bleacher Report soon.
It’s been a great, busy two weeks in Lynx Land. We’ll be back next week with more updates in Vol. 5!