Sam Harper, Daily File Photo
Carlie Wagner was forced to grow quickly as a freshman after the Gophers lost Rachel Banham due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee in the 10th game of the season.
Wagner played in all 33 games for Minnesota in her first year on campus, starting in 28 of them.
“At first, I felt a little bit [of pressure], but then [head coach Marlene Stollings] and the team just gave me confidence and were like, ‘Just go out and play. Don’t worry about scoring,’” Wagner said. “It helped me a lot, and I became more confident that way.”
Banham watched the New Richland, Minn., native’s progress mostly from the bench last season and said she was impressed with Wagner’s growth.
“Last year, she stepped up incredibly,” Banham said. “When I went down, her numbers continued to rise, and I think that’s something that’s helped her get better over the year.”
Wagner averaged 12.1 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as a freshman.
The 5-foot-10-inch guard has been asked to take on an even larger role this season in the Gophers’ new four-guard lineup.
She’s picked up her rebounding, grabbing 6.2 boards per game after Stollings challenged her regular guards before the season to average six.
Wagner has increased her scoring as well, averaging 18.6 points per game and shooting 40.7 percent from the field.
“We are very pleased with [Wagner], and we had anticipated that coming in to this year after having logged so many minutes last year,” Stollings said. “She has a lot of
experience under her belt, and she worked really hard in the offseason, so I expected her to come in and put up big numbers for us.”
The 2014 Minnesota Miss Basketball award winner stepped in right away to the Gophers up-tempo system last year, but the pace of college basketball didn’t always come easy to her. A year of experience has helped to adjust, though, she said.
“I feel like I just feel the flow of the game … and feel like I’m fully capable of playing that way now,” Wagner said. “Last year, I felt like I wasn’t seeing the game at the pace that it was being played. I was just in slow motion, almost, compared to the game.”
Wagner said she’s also been helped by having experienced players around her at her position. The Gophers regularly start Banham and two senior guards: Mikayla Bailey and Shayne Mullaney.
“It has definitely helped having four guards that have played with each other out there at a time,” Wagner said. “It just adds experience and leadership on the floor.”
Wagner is the Gophers’ second-leading scorer so far this season, but she said this year she wants to improve her play on the defensive end of the floor.
It’s the next step for a player who’s been one of the Gophers main underclassman contributors.