Whalen to return to campus for Lynx preseason game

The Lynx are set to play an exhibition game May 15 at the Sports Pavilion.

Betsy Helfand

On Tuesday, May 15, Lindsay Whalen, the most prolific scorer in the Gophers women’s basketball program, will take the court again on campus wearing a Minnesota uniform.

This time, however, it won’t be maroon and gold.

Although she’ll still be wearing the familiar No. 13, which hangs in the rafters at Williams Arena, Whalen will be sporting a Minnesota Lynx jersey as her current team hosts the Chicago Sky at the Sports Pavilion.

The game will begin at noon, and fans can purchase tickets for as low as $15-$75, but  University students and faculty can get a discount.

 “Going back to where I personally had so many good years and got a great education and had a lot of fun, that’ll be a really great day, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Whalen said.

The Lynx hosted exhibition games at Williams Arena in 2005 and the Sports Pavilion in 2006. But when they play later this month, they’ll have a unique connection to the school in Whalen that they didn’t have in those years.

“I think it’s a logical choice given that we have one of the all-time greats that played at the U,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said.

When the Lynx hosted the Connecticut Sun at Williams Arena in 2005, Whalen was on the other team.

Whalen, who played for the Gophers from 2001 to 2004, said going back to Williams Arena was great, but it was “a little strange to be back on that court” since it was so soon after she had graduated.

Whalen said she is happy to still be supported by a lot of Gophers fans and that she expects the crowd to be “pretty good.”

Whalen has had the support of many Gophers women’s basketball fans since she has graduated.

“I think being actually back in the facility that she practiced in — played a little bit in — I think, for the fans, it’s just one of those things, kind of like the good old days revisited,” Reeve said.

Carley Knox, the Lynx business development manager, said that the team approached the University with the idea and that they began to have conversations about it in late fall and decided to play at the Sports Pavilion in the middle of winter.

She said the move of venues was a combination of outgrowing Concordia-St. Paul, where the Lynx played an exhibition game last year and the desire to bring Whalen back to campus.

Knox said some fans stood or sat on the floor to see the game at Concordia last year.

Associate athletics director Jason LaFrenz said the game “helps in the promotion of women’s basketball.”

“We’re super excited to have the WNBA champions playing in our building and keep trying to build women’s basketball. Support the Lynx and also build interest in the Gophers,” LaFrenz said.

As of May 2, Knox said the team had sold just less than 3,000 tickets to the game and that she hoped they’d sell anywhere from 3,500 to 5,000.

“We have a great relationship with the University of Minnesota and the women’s basketball team there … and just thought it would be a perfect fit to come over to the U and bring Lindsay home to her college team and kick off the road to repeat at the University of Minnesota,” Knox said.