Gophers women’s basketball face new challenges with pandemic

Head coach Lindsay Whalen is still recruiting, even if she can't do it in person.

Coach Lindsay Whalen prepares to blow the whistle during Gopher women's basketball's annual exhibition versus the men's scout team on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Williams Arena.

Tony Saunders

Coach Lindsay Whalen prepares to blow the whistle during Gopher women's basketball's annual exhibition versus the men's scout team on Saturday, Oct. 20 at Williams Arena.

Brendan O'Brien

While many winter and spring sports teams across the country saw their seasons end abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gophers women’s basketball season ended differently than other teams.

In fact, their ending was unique this year: it was normal. After losing in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to Ohio State, the Gophers already knew they likely played their last game of the 2019-20 season. When many teams had their NCAA Tournament hopes quickly snatched away, the Gophers were something of an oddball with a normal close to their year.

But that does not mean the Gophers have not been affected by the virus and the new regulations that have come with it. According to head coach Lindsay Whalen, the current situation has led to new challenges in recruiting and continuing to develop current players at the University.

Recruiting

Arguably the area for the Gophers that has been affected most by COVID-19, Whalen said she and other coaches would have used this time to hit the road and do home visits as part of recruiting the 2021 class. But with a dead period put in place by the NCAA, home visits along with official and unofficial campus visits have been put on hold until at least April 15.

This dead period does limit travel for the time being, but it does not exclude all communication between coaches and recruits. Whalen remains excited and hopeful for when they will be able to get out and recruit again, but in the mean time, she and her staff will continue to recruit players through phone calls and text messages. She also said it is important to her to remain focused on bringing in players who will help establish and build upon the culture at the university.

“Whenever we can be out, we’ll be out recruiting players that best fit our culture,” Whalen said.

Two transfers have already announced their intentions to play for the Gophers next year: Laura Bagwell-Katalinich, previously of Cornell, and former Nebraska Husker Kayla Mershon.

Current Gophers

Players were sent home and are unable to train at University facilities. While there would not have been organized team practices this quickly after the season, the Gophers were beginning to wrap up their season with individual player evaluations and watching film from the season. Whalen said she still checks in with players to see how they are doing at home.

Despite the inability to train at the University and many public gyms being closed, Whalen said it is important that players to do any training they can at home. That might mean putting a hiatus on shooting for some, but they could emphasize cardio and core strength workouts to stay in basketball shape.

With the team’s normal routine put on hold for the time being, Whalen’s main message to the players is to appreciate all aspects of the game from waking up early to train, to practicing, to putting on a jersey for Minnesota and playing at Williams Arena.