Taj McWilliams-Franklin Gives Inside Look at Lynx Training Camp
The veteran is utilizing her willingness to communicate to become a leader on the Minnesota Lynx immediately.
By Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
Taj McWilliams-Franklin has seen a lot in her WNBA career. In her first training camp with the Minnesota Lynx, she knows there are very high expectations for the young team and is using her veteran status to be a leader, almost the “coach on the floor” at times.
“Camp has gone just like I thought it would go,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “In the beginning, a lot of the young players are pretty nervous. They came in the first day and there was about 22 turnovers in five minutes. After we got the jitters out, yesterday we played against the guys. I think a lot of players relaxed and just played. You know, in camp you try so hard to impress you don’t really do what’s natural for you, so you think a lot about the game and maybe you should’ve made a layup or you should’ve passed, but you didn’t. When you play other people and they’re guarding you, you kind of go back into your natural mode, which is really why the coaches brought you here. They want to see you as a player and what you naturally do. Yesterday’s scrimmage helped a lot and I think our game on Tuesday at Concordia against Indiana will allow the coaches to be able to evaluate, but I think it will also allow the players to be able to see how they’re going to fit into what we’re trying to do here with the Minnesota Lynx.”
Utilizing her Facebook fan page (THE TAJ 11 FAN PAGE) to interact with fans, she has also started a diary which she’s entitled “Training for a Title: The Journey of the Minnesota Lynx.” At the team’s media day on Friday, McWilliams-Franklin addressed why she has chosen to give fans an inside look at the team.
“I love to write,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “I studied it in school and so that’s one of my things I do normally at home. I keep a diary, a journal, anyway of the things that go on during training camp, but I wanted something special. One, because I am forty and two, I don’t know how long I’ll be playing after this and three, I think it’s something special that’s going to be happening here with the Minnesota Lynx.”
She has expectations of a high level of play on the basketball court and is not bashful to voice her opinions or concerns throughout training camp, which is something that will be very useful to the Lynx. Through the first week of camp, McWilliams-Franklin’s teammates are taking to her vocal leadership, as well as her keeping a public log of the team’s inner workings on Facebook.
“Oh, well, at least to my face,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “You never know, but as far as I know the girls are receptive. I had my quiet day today because you don’t want to keep talking and keep talking because after a while you stop listening, just like when your parents got on you. After, like, the third time, you’re like, ‘Whatever. I don’t listen to anything.’ Today’s my quiet day and you just want to see from day to day if players can change and improve themselves. If you can take count of yourself and then the next day come in and say, ‘I need to do this better. I didn’t do it well yesterday or I didn’t do it well in the game,’ those are the type of players you want to keep. I think, for me and I know Coach Reeve and all the coaching staff, they want to see how the players can evaluate themselves and move on to the next level.”
Being around the league for the length of time she has, McWilliams-Franklin has friends everywhere. She already has a kinship with Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, due to their time in Detroit together, where they had success on the basketball court.
“Me and Cheryl have a thing already from Detroit and, just as a person that I go to for advice on different things, she has my utmost respect,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “When you come into camp and not being in a lot, I don’t know what to expect. I thought we would be doing some two-a-days and I was trying to steal my mind to be ready, but she’s honestly just been a pro’s coach, which I knew she was. What that really entails is knowing what player needs to do what at what time.”
Reeve is in her second year as the head coach of the Minnesota Lynx and McWilliams-Franklin sees her growth as the team’s leader. Most striking is Reeve’s utilization of time during training camp, as WNBA camps are always short in preparation for the regular season.
“We, as basketball players, have ADD, so after two hours, we are fading, no matter what people tell you,” said McWilliams Franklin. “A majority of her intense stuff is done at the beginning when we’re the most in tune and so towards the end when we really need to focus we start scrimmaging. Controlled scrimmages where this is the point when most of us with ADD go south. Now we all have to buckle down and focus our energies to complete the goal because now this is the fourth quarter. She’s learned from being around Bill Laimbeer, from coaching previously in college that this is the style that’s going to work best for us and I love it.”
One of the interesting new things Reeve is doing in camp is having perimeter players guard post players on the court. McWilliams-Franklin has taken notice of that and, although something new to her—when she’s not used to seeing a lot of new things—there are obvious benefits.
“I mean, she had us all in there,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “Candice Wiggins was battling me, Maya Moore was battling Amber Harris, our smallest Angel Robinson was battling Jess (Adair), so it was funny, but at the same time, you see what kind of character those players are made of because you could just give in. You’re little, we’re posting you, we’re strong, but pushing up the line, playing post defense that we worked on, it was great to see and I applaud them. It’s hard playing the post. I know because we’ve been playing it all our lives and they were in there battling and it wasn’t just one token pass. We don’t do that here in training camp. It’s ‘we’re going as hard as we can, we’re trying to get the ball and you have to try to stop us from getting it’ and they really played well.’”
Already roughly halfway through training camp, the Minnesota Lynx are progressing, but, of course, still have work to do. Showing her character, McWilliams-Franklin’s goals for the regular season are mostly team-oriented, but even the individual goals are with her new team in mind.
“Outside of staying healthy, the main individual goal, I think, for me is just the rebounding,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “Improving the rebounding edge for the Minnesota Lynx. I guess that’s team and my individual, so, you know, last year was low for me in rebounding. I want to get it back to where it was previously. I think I averaged 7.6, I’m not sure, but I need to be somewhere around 7.6, not 6.5. For me, that’s important and keep my free throw percentage up.”
If her Minnesota Lynx teammates follow the example McWilliams-Franklin is setting, the team will achieve great things in the summer of 2011.