Whalen, USA win FIBA gold medal

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen plays against the New York Liberty August 8 at the Target Center.

Joseph Michaud-Scorza, Daily File Photo

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen plays against the New York Liberty August 8 at the Target Center.

Andrew Baker

Former Gophers star and current Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen and the USA national team defeated the host Czech Republic 89-69 to win a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship for Women in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Sunday. Whalen is the first Gopher to play for the USA in the FIBA tournament, which is second only to the Olympics in international prestige. âÄúTo be on the podium just felt awesome,âÄù Whalen, the USA teamâÄôs backup point guard, said after the game. âÄúThis was something that you always dream about, and itâÄôs just awesome to be a world champion.âÄù Though Whalen finished the final game with just nine minutes, one personal foul and one turnover, she was a factor in several of the USA teamâÄôs nine tournament games. Her biggest performance came against Canada last Monday, when she scored a game-high 16 points off the bench to lead the USA to an 87-46 win. Coach Geno Auriemma said he selected Whalen to the team because of her physical, unselfish play. She averaged 5.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game during the tournament. Whalen, a Hutchinson native, is the second Minnesotan to ever play for a USA Olympic or world championship team (Burdie Haldorson, an Austin-native, played for menâÄôs Olympic teams in 1956 and 1960). She holds the all-time Gophers scoring record (2,285 points) and in 2004 led the team to its first ever Final Four appearance. Whalen played in two WNBA Finals in six years with the Connecticut Sun before the Lynx acquired her in a blockbuster January trade. WhalenâÄôs college teammate and current Winona State assistant coach Shannon Schonrock said she used DVR to record the USA teamâÄôs gold medal win. âÄúIâÄôm really proud of Lindsay and obviously thatâÄôs a huge honor,âÄù Schonrock said. âÄú[ItâÄôs] probably one of her biggest accomplishments and to be on that world stage and to represent not only the USA but also our University of Minnesota and the state of MinnesotaâĦIâÄôm really happy for her.âÄù The FIBA World Championship was a sort of homecoming for Whalen, who has played three seasons in the Czech Republic with USK Prague during the WNBA off-season. Whalen said she has grown familiar with the country, picked up a bit of the Czech language, and most importantly, learned the playing styles and tendencies of the Czech players. Asked why she thought Whalen saw such little action against the Czech players she knows so well, Gophers WomenâÄôs Head Coach Pam Borton, who coached Whalen in college, said she was sure Auriemma had a gameplan based on favorable indidvidual match-ups for the USA players. Playing time, Borton said, was probably âÄúthe last thing on [the USA playersâÄô] minds.âÄù With its win Sunday, the USA team is the first to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.