After 13 years in the WNBA, Lindsay Whalen stays involved with her alma mater

Whalen, a point guard for the Minnesota Lynx, still goes to the Gophers’ practices.

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen plays against the Tulsa Shock on July 12 at the Target Center. Whalen, a former Gophers player, will compete in her first Olympics in London.

Mark Vancleave

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen plays against the Tulsa Shock on July 12 at the Target Center. Whalen, a former Gophers player, will compete in her first Olympics in London.

Drew Cove

From Hutchinson, Minnesota to Minneapolis, Lindsay Whalen hasn’t strayed from Minnesota.

She didn’t leave her school behind either.

Whalen, a former Minnesota point guard from 2000-04, has proven she can thrive at every level, breaking the record for most wins among WNBA players, but she also stayed close to the Gophers program.

“I try to go to a practice or two every year,” Whalen said. “When I’m in the Twin Cities I try to go to the Barn and check out the game.”

While her busy schedule of playing for the Lynx and playing overseas keeps her away, Whalen wishes she could be around the Gophers program more.

Being physically present isn’t the only way to stay connected to her alma mater, but the distance from Williams Arena to either Target Center, or the Lynx current home, the Xcel Energy Center, is a small one.

“I’m very lucky,” Whalen said. “I’m from here, I’ve gotten to play here as a college athlete and now as a pro athlete, so it makes it easy to stay in touch, and stay following Gopher sports as much as I can.”

The influence on the Gophers women’s basketball program isn’t all just through the current team.

Former Gophers star Rachel Banham is on a similar path to Whalen, since she was drafted fourth overall by and plays for the same team that Whalen did, the Connecticut Sun.

“I’ve definitely tried to … be as helpful to her as I can be,” Whalen said. “Any advice that I can give her I try to do. She’s doing great. She’s got a real great start to her career.”

While Banham is off and running in her professional career, Whalen has now been in the WNBA for 13 years.

With plenty of accolades under her belt, including three WNBA titles and being the Lynx all-time leader in assists, she also made it to another level with her victories in June this season.

“It’s a great accomplishment, because it’s a team accomplishment,” Whalen said. “Anytime you get to enjoy those wins, and they kind of start to pile up, makes it for a lot of fun.”

Now with 303 wins, Whalen passed former WNBA player Swin Cash for wins in the league at 295 in June.

The biggest team accomplishment Whalen had with the Gophers was when the team made the Final Four in 2004.

“Whalen ended up getting hurt that year, and I think it really put the season in jeopardy,” said Whalen’s former Gophers and former Lynx teammate Janel McCarville. “With her coming back … she stepped right into that role and really propelled us to the Final Four that year,” McCarville said.

That season was the only time the Gophers have ever made it to the Final Four.

Part of Whalen’s keys to making the Gophers thrive that season was her leadership and invaluable lessons.

“She’s the oldest of five kids, so I think it just instilled in her the sense of responsibility,” said Whalen’s mother Kathy Whalen. “Just making sure that you follow through with what you set out as a goal.”

One thing that Whalen attributes to the success of her career is her coaches and her family.

“It’s been a great career that I’ve had,” Whalen said. “There’s ups and downs like everything, so any chance that I can to, when there are down times, I’ve always got my family, and my coaches there to kind of pick me up.”

Jack White contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this article misclassified Janel McCarville’s current team. She is no longer on the Lynx.