After a stellar career at Connecticut, Crystal Dangerfield was selected with the 16th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 WNBA draft by the Minnesota Lynx. This season the 5-5 guard has started in 12 of the team’s 14 games, and is second on the team in two categories behind only former Husky teammate Napheesa Collier: Dangerfield averages 15.2 points per game in an average 29.6 minutes on the floor, and she also dishes 3.1 assists. She has scored 20 or more points four times, including a career-high 29-point outburst on Aug. 9.
Dangerfield’s efforts have helped make the Lynx contenders in a year that has seen All-Star center Sylvia Fowles sidelined with a calf injury for seven games. Minnesota is 10-4 and fourth in league standings going into today’s match up against the Phoenix Mercury.
With No. 1 and No. 4 picks Sabrina Ionescu and Chennedy Carter missing significant time this year due to injuries, Dangerfield is the current favorite to win Rookie of the Year. With her exceptional poise, fearlessness on the court and high motor, it would surprise no one if she won.
You were tabbed to be drafted in the first round, but you went in the second. How did you feel about that, and did your draft position have any effect on your outlook going into the season?
The outlook was just hoping to have a training camp to make myself feel good about having a chance to stick. Second-rounders don’t really stay a lot, out of the draft. I was really just making sure that the fit with the team was good and I’d have a chance to do something if I was on the team.
The Lynx had training in Minnesota before going to Bradenton. How did you adjust to the pro level, and how did you go about fitting in with your new team?
We had virtual training camp, which was just going over plays and what we wanted our defense to look like. When we got to Minnesota it was just individuals, which was the same thing that we did in college. So, I was just handling it the same way, really.
Did you foresee playing the role that you’re currently playing when you initially came into the bubble?
No, I did not. I thought I was just going to be a sub player, playing a couple of minutes here. We had some unfortunate injuries, now I’m starting, and it’s a completely different role than I anticipated.
You have a lot of responsibility filling the point guard position as a rookie. How do you handle that and how do you continue to learn as you work?
In the type of season that we’re having just have short-term memory, but also understanding that I have to learn quickly from my mistakes that I do have and get better every time I touch the floor.
What parts of your game are you working to improve? Or do you even have time to work on a specific aspect of your game?
Definitely reading defenses. It’s different. You can guard things differently in the league than in college. Overall, just try to learn my teammates as best I can, lean on them, and have them help me, really.
What are your strengths right now?
Right now, it’s definitely pushing pace. Being one of the quicker guards in the league it’s definitely what I can control, and it’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Napheesa Collier was your teammate at UConn. Were you excited to be on the same team as her?
Absolutely! Phee definitely makes my job a whole lot easier. I’m sure she’s heard that a lot of times. She makes the game look really easy. She has an effect on not only myself, but other players on the floor. Coming back and playing with Phee has been great.
Who on the team has been especially helpful to you in your pro transition?
Definitely Phee of course, and Sylvia. She’s obviously not in my position, but her being the vet on the team she’s being vocal. She’s taking the younger players to the side and telling them what we can do to help and what we can do to be successful.
What are some of the similarities and differences between coach Reeve and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma?
There’s not really a lot of differences. They pretty much have the same coaching style and the same expectations. Things may get said differently. We have different terminology, but other than that it’s pretty much the same. The intensity is the same, the passion for the game is the same, so that hasn’t been a hard transition.
What’s your pre-game routine like?
I got asked this question just the other day. I actually do not have one.
Are you superstitious?
Not really. I try to stay away from that because it turns into a panic attack if you don’t do something right, and all that extra stuff. So, I don’t try to get into all that.
You’re a very wise person! What do you like to do in your down time?
I have my feet up. I’m making sure I’m taking care of my body because it is such a quick turnaround between games, practices, and it’s a lot of minutes as well. So, I want to make sure I’m able to get on the court and be productive.
What’s on your music playlist right now?
I’d probably say Lil Baby. He’s a good one out right now. I love his music.
Who were your influences in basketball?
I think I take a little bit of everything from everybody. It’ll be one person for a certain amount of time and then I’ll go to something else. I remember when I was really younger I used to love Dwyane Wade. It can really be anybody.
What are your goals in basketball, and in your career after basketball?
My career after basketball, I’m still trying to figure that out. You get out of college and go straight into league games. I have some time to take after this season to figure that out completely. Basketball-wise it’s just winning a championship. I couldn’t do that in college, so that’s definitely something that I want to do while I’m in the league.
How important would it be for you to be named Rookie of the Year?
I wouldn’t say it’s a high level of importance for me. Honestly, I would really appreciate it because it’s hard work paying off and recognition. Right now, the goal for me is to help my team win games, get into the playoffs, and make noise there.
Can the Lynx make a title run this year?
I believe so. Obviously, we’ve had injuries. We’re missing Syl right now. We don’t have her on the floor, but I think we have a talented group. We’re young, we learn, we pick up things quickly, and we listen to our coaching staff and trust in them. So, I think we can definitely get better and make some noise there.